Title: Journeys (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Part V: The Journey Home
16 June 2003; SGC, Earth; 0800 hrs
"Come on, Daniel," Carter's voice was saying as Jack made his way toward her lab, "it's only been, what, a month?"
"More, counting from when I arrived on Vis Uban," Daniel answered. "Why can't I remember--"
Jack peered inside to find Daniel with his head down on top of the bench next to Carter's desk. "What's going on?" Jack said.
They stopped talking, and Carter looked up. "Uh...nothing, sir," she said, with the wide-eyed, vaguely guilty look she always wore when telling him a white lie.
Jack frowned suspiciously at them. "New problems with your memories?" he asked cautiously. Daniel peeked upward and shook his head. "Okay...so how much do you remember now?"
"Enough," Daniel said, but his tone was a bit doubtful.
"Enough, as in..."
"I can get by from day to day. People aren't tiptoeing around me anymore."
Except Jack and people like their team who knew all wasn't miraculously fine--they were the ones who knew the details and knew when the details weren't in place yet. Jack was pretty sure Daniel had read over every journal he'd written in the last six years, as well as every report filed by SG-1 and quite a few others. There were still a lot of blanks, though, and while most people didn't notice because Daniel was back to walking comfortably around the SGC and greeting old friends as they passed in the halls, Jack couldn't help but notice when Daniel spent more time studying the conversations among SG-1 than participating in them. "Ah," Jack said. "Well, maybe you're thinking too hard."
"I can't just not think about remembering my life, Jack."
"I didn't say that," Jack said. Daniel scowled at him. "All right, all right. Look, I'm here for Carter. We're up on the mission roster, and we've got MALP data from a big list of planets. You need to start looking over them; I'm about to head over to tell Jonas the same thing."
"What should I--" Daniel started, then stopped. "Uh, never mind."
"Actually," Jack amended, "Carter, you go tell Jonas. You two put your heads together."
"Yes, sir," she said, sending Daniel an unhappy look before she left.
Daniel waited for her to leave, then said, "I'm not after Jonas's job. Really. I was only--"
"I talked to the general five minutes ago," Jack said. "He agreed to let you join the four of us when you're ready to go into the field again. If it's up to me, SG-1 will take both you and Jonas."
"Daniel," Jack said pointedly. Daniel shut up and raised his eyebrows expectantly. "The fact is, Hammond's worried about whether we can afford to keep resources like you two together."
"I'm not sure how much of a resource I am right now," Daniel said.
"Which is why you need to ease back in," Jack said. "Hammond will let me keep both of you until your memories are all back--get you back into the game. And then he'll make a decision, and maybe you'll both stay. You'd drive anyone else insane, anyway, and Jonas is the only one who can keep up with you and Carter. It's the only real way."
"Jack, he went on your last couple of standard recons, not me, because--"
"--because of a little something called 'amnesia,'" Jack said.
Daniel ignored that. "I left. I'm not entitled to something I walked away from." Personally, Jack didn't consider it walking away--not completely, anyway--since that part hadn't come until he'd literally been tortured to the brink of death. "It doesn't seem fair to make him fight for a position he already earned."
"That's funny," Jack said, "because that's kind of what Jonas said about you. Something about the fact that you worked with us for years before he did. You two have a problem working together?"
"Well, no," Daniel said, though his expression said he was wavering. "But that's not the point."
"There's no rule about four people per team--there've been plenty of five- and even six-man teams around here. We're SG-1. If any team's gonna be loaded with experts, it should be us. It'll just mean there's more overlap in our science experts, which means any of you can take temporary missions with other teams without sidelining all of SG-1, and we can even accelerate our schedule since we've got extra manpower."
The idea had taken hold, and Jack was already imagining what that schedule would look like, what with the fact that SG-1 could now carry on with most missions even if one or two of their members were otherwise occupied or injured, leaving them with at least three or four people. The uncertain situation with Anubis and the System Lords meant that SG-1 was basically going to be on call for emergencies all day every day, even more than usual, and that was on top of the regular exploration schedule; having an extra person would be useful in the coming months.
Before he could go on, though, Daniel said, "I think I remember Abydos."
Jack stopped. Daniel was looking at Carter's desk. "Oh?" Jack said, hoping that didn't mean what he thought it meant.
"Yeah," Daniel said, still not looking up. "Not much, but I remember a few things from...before."
"We don't know what happened there a month ago, you know that," Jack said.
"What if I need to stay there to help?" Daniel said.
"Do you want to?"
"Well...I don't know. But what if--"
"The SGC needs you," Jack pointed out, pushing down an encroaching sense of dread.
"The SGC was fine for over a year without me," Daniel said.
"No, we weren't!" Jack snapped. "You weren't here!"
Daniel finally looked up at him, biting his lip, but when he spoke, it was only to say calmly, "I don't know what it was like for you, but I can imagine it was difficult. And I'm sorry that I was the cause of grief and a lot of problems--"
"A lot of problems?" Jack echoed. "Whatever the situation is on Abydos, what do you think you can do? Help rebuild a house? Herd a few mastadges? Because I gotta tell you, your talents are better suited to tasks like saving the galaxy."
"You don't think it's important to see whether our first allies out there are even alive?" Daniel said evenly, quietly. "You don't think it would be worth the time to build a house because it would only shelter five people instead of helping a hundred?"
"Don't--don't start with that," Jack said. "You know that's not what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?" Daniel said.
"I mean," Jack said, "if you have a choice between pitching in muscle to do something others are probably better at anyway or doing something no one else in this galaxy can do--"
"They're my people, Jack," Daniel snapped.
"So are we," Jack snapped back.
Daniel didn't move. Jack was becoming nostalgic for the early days when he'd fidgeted when he was nervous instead of staring unnervingly at people. Finally, he said, "You're going to make me choose?"
"We don't even know what the choices are," Jack said. Daniel finally looked back down. "But if there turns out to be a choice, you're gonna have to choose, whether I make you or not."
"I know," Daniel said quietly. "It just...it depends on their situation. We still can't dial in?"
Jack shook his head. "No lock on their 'gate. Sorry."
Daniel sat back down at Carter's bench. "It's not your fault."
Ah. That tone. "You didn't lead Anubis to Abydos, Daniel," Jack said. "You led him to Earth--for which, by the way, I will yell at you once you have all your marbles back--but Abydos would've happened either way, even if they'd never met the SGC. At least you gave them a warning."
"Skaara says I told him gather men to stay and fight," Daniel said.
"Which was the right move," Jack said. "To be honest, I didn't think you had it in you."
Daniel snorted without amusement. "Sending idealistic young men to their deaths, you mean."
Yes, Jack thought. The Daniel he'd known before wouldn't have done that, and as bad as he might feel about it now, it was the only reason they had had time to succeed even to the extent that they had. "Anubis would've had the Eye of Ra otherwise," he said, "and they'd all be dead, and so might we. I doubt Yu--the Goa'uld--would've been able to beat Anubis with nothing but his regular old weapons--"
"Jack," Daniel sighed. "I know all that."
It didn't help, though. Jack knew as well as anyone that the feeling of sending in the few--even if they had been volunteers--as a sacrifice for the many was something logic could dull but not sooth completely. "Just stick around with us for now and finish filling in your memory," Jack said. "We'll see what happens when the Tok'ra get a ship over there."
22 June 2003; SGC, Earth; 1600 hrs
"We're never getting weekends off again, are we?" Jack said when he was called in on Sunday.
But it wasn't just his team and the general who met him in the briefing room; Skaara was there, too. "We got a call from the Tok'ra," the general said. "One of their operatives just finished a mission and got away in a teltak. He flew briefly over Abydos."
Jack stopped halfway into his seat, then dropped the rest of the way down. "Sir?"
"From orbit, there was nothing wrong with the planet that he could see," Hammond said. "Obviously, you can't see detail from that height."
Refusing to feel too relieved too soon, he clarified, "But the people...?"
"We don't know, Colonel. Korra--the operative--is injured and wasn't able to linger there long enough for a thorough sweep, but he's coming to Earth and is willing to let us use the teltak to see for ourselves," Hammond said. "We'll either care for him here or send him wherever he needs to go--I trust you'll be able to reach Abydos on your own without damaging their ship."
Jack looked at Daniel, who was already watching him. "Yes, sir," Jack said. "Do we know how long it'll take for him to get here?"
"He'll be arriving in about eight to ten hours, sir," Carter said. "The teltak's not in mint condition, so he's not pushing it as fast as it can go."
"We can fly the ship ourselves," Teal'c confirmed.
"All right," Jack said. "We'll need to bring a few things, General."
"Medical supplies," Carter said. "Containers and suits, just in case."
"Electrical equipment," Jonas added. "Spare crystals if their Stargate and DHD need repairs."
"Weapons, in the case that Anubis left forces there without our knowledge," Teal'c said.
Hammond nodded. "You have the next few hours to put together what you need."
"General, what happens when we get there?" Daniel said.
Looking between him and his brother, Hammond said, "It's a relatively short trip. We'll decide what to do once you've assessed the situation. Remember that we have this ship available to us for now, but it still belongs to the Tok'ra. We don't have our own fleet."
"I understand, sir," Daniel said.
23 June 2003; Teltak; 0100 hrs
"You look antsy," Jack said when he found Daniel reading in the cargo hold.
Daniel shook his head, glancing up from his book. "It's odd," he said, quietly enough not to disturb Skaara, who had dozed off soon after entering hyperspace. "I'm...nervous. More than I should be--like I don't want to see Abydos, even though I do."
Jack watched Daniel polish his glasses on his shirt, something he did when he was trying to buy time while avoiding eye contact. "You really don't remember as much about Abydos as you do about the SGC?" he asked, settling into a seat on an empty cargo crate.
"Really," Daniel said. "I actually know a lot about it, since I wrote about Nagada and Kasuf and everyone, and Skaara's told me even more. And there are pieces here and there. But I keep trying to remember Nagada and just can't picture it."
"Not at all?"
"Nothing. Not the 'SGC house,' or my old house, or Ra's pyramid, or anything that happened in Nagada proper, people I knew there... I've had dreams of playing outside it. I think I sneaked out some back entrance a lot--"
"Yeah, that's where the mines were," Jack said. "You said you studied there a lot as a kid."
When he received a startled look in answer, Jack realized that was exactly the point--he hadn't even known Daniel as a kid, and he still knew more about Daniel's childhood from what Daniel himself had told him. "Oh. Well. I've got nothing of the village itself, aside from what my journals told me."
Jack frowned. "Maybe you're blocking it out," he said awkwardly. "You know. Psychologically."
Daniel smiled humorlessly. "I've been talking to Dr. Mackenzie." Jack barely stopped himself from asking whether he'd gone temporarily insane. "I know, I know, but I figured it was worth a shot, right? He's dealt with a few cases of amnesia before."
"I guess," Jack said doubtfully. "Did it help?"
"Uh...well, not exactly. Basically, he thinks I've blocked out memories that are associated with being there, in Nagada--but why would I? Why be that specific? Unless you guys have been hiding something really big from me, then...there's just no logic in that."
"We're not hiding anything," Jack said. "But...sometimes, it's not so logical."
"Yeah, he said that, too."
"Maybe it'll come back. It can't just be gone from your memories; that makes no sense."
Daniel gave him a look. "Because everything else about this makes sense."
"Good point," Jack conceded, and wondered with a jolt if that was Daniel's punishment. He'd interfered in a big and flashy way on Abydos--maybe Oma had taken something of Abydos away from him in exchange.
"With you, Skaara, Teal'c, Sam...I felt almost like I should recognize you, even before I understood why. But with Nagada...nothing."
"Well, what about your parents?" Jack said.
To his surprise, Daniel shook his head again. "I've seen the few pictures I have. I know, factually, what they did for the SGC and what happened to them. I remember..." He stopped and bit his lip, turning away to look intently at his foot when he said, "Some things. I just wish it were more concrete."
"Still no?" Jack guessed.
"No," Daniel sighed. "At least not yet."
"I'm sorry," Jack said sincerely.
"Sure," Jack agreed, trying not to sound impatient with the tiny strides being made and knowing Daniel would probably hear his impatience, anyway. "You've been making progress."
Jonas appeared at the bulkhead. "What's up?" he said, grinning, and then, "Oh. Uh...never mind. I'll leave you guys--"
"Hey, Teal'c has a son, right?" Daniel said before Jonas could go.
"Rya'c?" Jack said. "You remember Teal'c's son but not your--"
Too late, he heard the words coming out of his mouth and stopped.
Daniel pressed his lips together for a moment, then said, "Rya'c. That's right."
"Yeah," Jonas said. "He's starting to get pretty active in the Jaffa rebellion."
"Apparently, he was pissed that Teal'c called him too young, even though he was about the same age you were when Teal'c was taking you into battle," Jack said. "Of course, Teal'c's answer was that you were dead, but Rya'c got himself in the thick of it anyway. Saved a lot of people."
"Right, I read that--he destroyed the weapon Anubis was using to attack the Tau'ri Stargate," Daniel said, frowning as if trying to remember something. "Where is he now?"
"He came to visit when Teal'c and Bra'tac were starting on tretonin," Jack said, confused about where this was going. "He left with Bra'tac once they were better. They went off recruiting rebels." Daniel considered his knees and fell silent. "So...is that what you were asking?"
There was no answer. Jack glanced at Jonas, who shrugged.
"Hello?" Jack waved a hand in front of Daniel's face.
"What?" Daniel said, looking up at last.
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Are you...?" He waggled his fingers near his head. "You know." Daniel raised his eyebrows. "You know," Jack repeated.
"I'm fine," Daniel said, wearing the puzzled and vaguely irritated expression he often wore when he felt people around him were being stupid.
"Maybe you should get some rest," Jack said. "Jonas, everything okay up front?"
"Yup," Jonas said, nodding. "Sam was just checking to make sure all systems will hold, even if they're not at full power. Oh, and Teal'c says to tell you we'll be there in about five hours."
"All right," Jack said. He tilted his head in Daniel's direction. "You two rest. We don't know what we'll find when we get there."
"Jack..." Daniel said.
"Hey, can I ask you about something?" Jonas said, sitting down next to him and thrusting a notebook under his nose. "I have some questions about the conclusions you drew from a few of your studies."
Daniel gave Jack a reproachful look but obediently allowed himself to be distracted and took the notebook from Jonas.
Carter and Teal'c were both in the peltak. "I put the kids down for the night," Jack told them. "Should be another hour or so before one of them needs something."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow at him as Carter smiled down at her feet.
Jack looked out the window. "So...about that burst of energy we got from Abydos after the Anubis thing," he said. "Doesn't tell us anything?"
"Sorry sir," Carter said. "Nothing definitive. I've looked at the data collected by the radiation team that checked the iris afterward. All I can tell is that there was an explosion of some kind. Getting quantitative data from a burst like that through a wormhole is difficult at best."
In other words, they might find that barely anything had happened to Abydos, and they might find that the planet was dead. "You can start a nuclear reaction if there's enough naquadah in the planet, right?" Jack said. "We've seen that happen."
"Yes, sir," Carter said, settling into what he'd come to know as her lecturing pose. "It depends on what Anubis's weapon actually did. Naquadah is fissile, but it takes a lot and the right conditions to initiate a nuclear chain reaction."
"If Korra was right, at least we know it's not as bad as when we did our naquadah-nuclear weapon test," Jack said. "As in...the planet's not a ball of fire."
"Nuclear capabilities aside, sir, there are other ways the weapon could have been just as bad. Naquadah is more explosive than fissile--I'm more worried that the shockwave might have detonated the naquadah that the damage could have spread to the rest of the planet. A large Goa'uld weapon could certainly do that."
"However, Skaara has said that their people were all evacuated," Teal'c said. "Perhaps they were far enough to be sheltered from damage."
Carter shrugged. "There are just too many factors we don't know. If the damage was contained, and those caves they're hiding in are far enough away, stable enough, well-enough shielded..."
"I get it," Jack said. He glanced in the direction of the cargo hold, where Jonas was with the two Abydons. "Look, if something goes wrong, no questions--they're coming back with us, Daniel and Skaara both."
"Of course, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"Jack," Daniel said, striding out into the peltak with Jonas on his heels, a sheaf of papers in his hand. "Was this you?"
"I thought it'd be at least an hour," Jack sighed.
Daniel shoved the sheet into his face. "Did you draw pictures over my notes?"
"How could you possibly know that was me?" Jack said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Daniel said facetiously. "I suppose it might have been Teal'c who was doodling in my notebooks."
"It was a boring page," Jack defended, suppressing satisfaction that Daniel at least knew enough to know it must have been Jack, even if he didn't yet remember the day he'd walked into his office and caught Jack in the act.
Jonas gave him a grimace and a shrug for ratting him out, then settled in the copilot's seat. "When do I get to learn to fly this thing?" he asked.
"I had to wait about five years before anyone taught me," Daniel told him.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Are we there yet?" he said hopefully.
Carter grinned at him. "Four and a half hours to go, sir," she said.
23 June 2003; Abydos; 0600 hrs
For a while, Jack thought they'd arrived on the wrong side of the planet, or even that they'd gone to the wrong planet altogether. And then he realized that they were hovering smack over Ra's former seat of power, the hatak landing pad that had housed the Stargate on Abydos. It was just hard to recognize the place at first.
The pyramid was in ruins. As far as they could tell from this height, the land around it was cleared, too. 'Flattened,' Jack thought numbly, would probably be a good assessment.
So much for fixing everything by fixing their Stargate.
Even picking out Stargate debris from pyramid debris, much less putting it back together, was out of the question. Everything below them looked like molten and cooled rock. Jack didn't want to think about what the rest of the world looked like.
"What is this place?" Daniel asked.
Jack glanced back at Skaara's stricken face. "It's where the Stargate was," he said. "There was--"
"Oh, the pyramid," Daniel said, and only the look of triumph on his face before it dissolved into realization told Jack that he was remembering it from a report, not an image from his childhood.
"Our sensors detect normal temperature," Teal'c said as he flew in the direction of the main village. "We are not detecting significant radiation."
"Does this"--Daniel gestured to the view outside--"mean we are or aren't expecting radiation?"
Jonas shrugged. "Anubis could've dropped a nuclear bomb here for all we know, although it's not really characteristic of a Goa'uld ship's weapon. Even a beam weapon, with enough energy of the right type and a fissionable element like naquadah all around..."
"It's possible," Carter finished. "If I had to guess, though, I'd say not, but with Anubis, we can't rule out anything entirely...including other chemical or biohazards Anubis might have released for...for completion or just out of spite."
Jack blinked at them. This was what he got for spending time with a theoretical physicist and someone who had spent his life studying the nuclear physics of naquadah. "So we're wearing our hazmat suits," he summarized.
Carter exchanged a glance with Jonas. "Yes, sir, until we know the extent of the damage."
"Anubis attacked just here, yes?" Skaara said. "Perhaps the only damage is here."
"Perhaps," Teal'c said.
Skaara was the first to catch sight of Nagada proper. He started to point, then stopped.
"Is that the--" Daniel started.
"Yeah," Jack said, staring at blackened smudges that looked like ashes embedded in rock. He imagined that might have been a piece of the village gates, once upon a time.
Beyond the gates were barely-recognizable pieces of houses, though Jack could still imagine how they were supposed to look. If they dug through the debris just there, they might find part of Daniel's old home or even a few crushed boxes of SGC supplies, left by and for the teams that sometimes stayed here. Skaara's old house was further in, closer to the central public areas. Jack couldn't even tell where that was anymore--some of it had been covered over by shifting sand and the rest was buried in rubble.
"There are no people," Daniel said, though he sounded more interested than upset.
"That could be a good thing," Jonas said. "Everyone was evacuated. They wouldn't have been here during the attack. We might still find them in those, uh...caves of Kalima--"
"Wait," Skaara said suddenly. "Wait! Teal'c, stop!"
Jack leaned forward and found himself bumping shoulders with Carter on one side and Jonas on the other as everyone else tried to crowd around to look out. "What is it?" Jonas said.
"Look," Skaara said, pointing. "It stops here." Jack squinted more closely at the ground and realized what he meant.
"What the...?" Jonas said. "There's a...it's like a line. Past that, it's like nothing ever happened."
"And yet," Teal'c said, "the structures before that line have been entirely demolished."
What they called a 'line' was more like a ridge that looked like it had boiled and bubbled upward, then cooled in place. It wasn't immediately obvious from the sky, but once they really looked, it was easy to see a border, more or less, with destruction on one side and almost nothing out of the ordinary on the other. Only a handful of houses were still there on the undamaged side, and part of a fallen fence, but still...
"All right, that's not normal," Jack said, staring. "Tell me that's not normal."
"A change that sharply and cleanly delineated?" Carter said, shaking her head, her eyes huge and staring outside. "No, sir. No way. Even ignoring blast damage and looking just at the temperature, there would at least have been a gradient, not a sharp change from a couple thousand degrees to ambient temperature."
"Thousand degrees?" Daniel echoed.
Carter pointed at the ground. "See how glassy the rock looks? That's probably molten sand, maybe even naquadah. You need it to get pretty hot for that."
"Yeah--the Stargate itself is over thirty tons of solid naquadah, not to mention whatever the pyramid was made of and any unstable objects in that secret chamber," Jonas said. "Not even considering Anubis's weapon, an impact like an exploding Stargate near a large naquadah mine should have spread a lot farther. It's like something..." He broke off.
"Something stopped the damage from spreading to the rest of our planet," Skaara finished, turning to Daniel.
Daniel was frowning at the ground outside the ship and didn't notice until everyone else was staring at him, too. His expression became wary. "Look," he said, holding up a hand, "I don't know what happened here. I don't even know what the pyramid looked like."
"Like a pyramid," Jack told him.
Daniel looked at him with clear irritation, then determinedly turned his attention back to the ground. "This looks like a pretty big village," he said. "A lot of people must have--"
"Whoa, this isn't an ancient city for you to study, Daniel," Jack interrupted when Skaara's hand clenched hard around the edge of the main console. He recognized that tone of voice.
"Right," Daniel said absently, not paying attention. "I wonder if any artifacts would have survived that--no, the temperature would've been too high if it was able to melt the naquadah. But I'll bet, if we work through the rubble on the other side, we could--"
"This was our home!" Skaara burst out. "Our home is destroyed, Dan'yel! Do you understand that? You--you were born there"--he pointed backward--"and my father lived there, and Sha'uri--" His voice broke, and he turned away.
Daniel's expression was stricken, as if he'd remembered only then that this was more than a trip for the sake of architectural archaeology. "I..." he said, looking around the peltak. He turned back to the window. Jack looked for a flicker of recognition, but he only said, more quietly, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...sorry."
Skaara took a breath and sat slowly in the seat next to Teal'c's. "The people might be somewhere else," Jonas said again into the silence, forcibly optimistic. "That's what matters, right?"
"Yes," Skaara said quietly. He glanced at Daniel, his expression showing that he very badly needed Daniel to remember something, and said, "You said we could rebuild, as long as we had our people. No?"
I don't remember, Daniel's expression said, but he bit his lip and stayed silent.
"Sir," Carter said, "I'd like to grab a few samples, just in case we need them later for analysis. We might need it to figure out exactly what happened here. We may as well pick here to do a quick materials analysis before we move on to the rest of the planet."
"All right," Jack said, eager to do something before they stared any longer at the skeleton of a dead town. "Teal'c, put us down here. Major, Jonas, break out the suits and do a radiation and hazmat check first--Daniel will stay and help you collect whatever you need and stand guard. Teal'c and I'll take Skaara and look around the planet in the teltak."
23 June 2003; Nagada Ruins, Abydos; 0800 hrs
"Jonas, hand me that," Sam said. As the vial appeared in front of her, she added, "Daniel, what do you have?"
"I'm still not getting significant radiation or anything that registers as dangerous," Daniel said, holding his gun loosely. "And it's way too open for anyone to be around without our knowing."
"Well, I've got naquadah readings that look about right for this region of Abydos," Jonas said, looking between his quickly run assay and a previous report on Abydonian soil. "I bet a detailed analysis would show different mineral composition, though; some parts of the raw ore were probably vaporized in the blast."
Daniel turned from where he was dutifully watching the land around them for possible people, friendly or otherwise. "Is that significant?" he said.
"It might tell us more about the conditions during the attack," Sam said, "but I don't know how useful exact measurements might be, just that the conditions were obviously unsustainable."
"Soil conditions could have an agricultural impact," Jonas put in.
"True," she conceded. "But Nagada was never a heavily agrarian society."
"We should look closer to where the pyramid was too, right?" Daniel said. "That was the focus, and there was a lot of unknown technology there."
"Yeah. We'll definitely swing by there before we leave. Looking for people is a higher priority for now, though."
"Where did Skaara say they were hiding again, Daniel?" Jonas said.
Sam labeled the last of her samples and packed them. She touched the ground again where sand had melted into a slab of dirty silica glass and marveled at the sharp edge where the heat had, apparently, stopped in its tracks. Energy never stopped in its tracks, not like this. Then again, energy from another plane of existence didn't usually materialize as people, either, but she'd already seen that and its reverse several times now. She carefully chipped some of the naquadah away, already planning the tests they would want to run on this.
She didn't look up until Jonas repeated, "Daniel? What's wrong?"
Sam turned and saw Daniel crouching on the ground in his suit, his face mostly hidden by his mask. She bent and set a hand on Daniel's shoulder, making him jump. "What?" Daniel said, looking around.
"Did you hear what Jonas said?" Sam asked.
"What?" Daniel repeated.
Exchanging a look with Jonas, she asked, "Are you okay?"
"I..." He adjusted his mask, almost nervously. "It's just, I don't even remember what this place is supposed to look like, and...something happened here."
You happened here, she thought--it was the only explanation--but said, "Okay, you know what, let's pack it up and get out of here." She pushed herself to her feet and tucked away her box of samples as Jonas and Daniel picked up their weapons. "Let's walk a little and if we still don't detect any radiation or toxins, we can take all this stuff off. Both of you keep your meters out and keep an eye on them. Jonas, call the colonel and tell him we're done."
"Colonel O'Neill, come in," Jonas said.
Immediately, the colonel's voice said, "Where are you guys?"
"We just finished," Jonas said. "We're thinking of starting toward the caves of Kalima, if you've found anything there."
There was a pause, and then, "It's too far; it'd take you a couple of days on foot. Start heading west--Teal'c's going to swing back and pick you guys up to meet us here while Skaara and I keep moving."
As they started off, Sam glanced back at the corpse of the village they had come to know so well, then turned away and went on. Daniel was checking the sun to find west and didn't notice.
"None of this is naquadria, right?" Daniel said, gesturing around them as they walked.
"No, it's all naquadah and other common minerals," Sam said. "I'm sure Ra would have found a use for naquadria if he'd had it on this planet."
"Well, yeah," he said, "but Anubis has all sorts of energy weapons. Are we sure this weapon didn't release the subatomic particles that convert naquadah into naquadria in the first place?"
Sam felt her jaw drop. She turned to look at Jonas, whose eyes were wide with question. A glance at Daniel showed that he was still obediently monitoring radiation and didn't notice their surprise. "What are you talk--" Jonas started.
"Shh," Sam interrupted quickly, holding up a hand. "Daniel, how do you--what do you know about subatomic particles?"
"I know that they...uh..." Finally, Daniel looked up at her, but he shrugged. "...are smaller than atoms? I don't know. They were released in the Kelowna naquadria test. I thought that was why the planet collapsed. Am I remembering that wrong?"
"Where did you hear that subatomic particles convert naquadah to naquadria?" Jonas said.
Daniel blinked. "It must have been in one of your reports."
"Well, I didn't write it in mine," Jonas said. "I've always assumed naquadria was a rare but naturally occurring isotope on my planet, not one that was...created."
"And I didn't know about the subatomic particles emitted during the test," Sam added, still watching him carefully for his reaction. "There wasn't enough left to do much more than evacuate as quickly as possible. Neither of us knew or said anything about that, Daniel."
His mask hid most of his face, but eventually, Daniel said, "Well. I don't know what subatomic particles are, so where does that leave us?"
"Oh, wow," Jonas breathed. "That...that explains...so much about naquadria and why our underground supplies went critical. It was naquadah to begin with, just like our original geological data said, and that's why the bomb test didn't just destroy the planet immediately--"
"The earthquakes," Sam remembered from the evacuation, realizing now what that had been. "They must've been minor explosions from naquadria nearer the surface, but deeper veins of naquadah weren't converted until--"
"--yeah, so there was a delay until we reached that critical point, which gave us enough time for the evacuation."
"The naquadria would have decayed to a more stable isotope over time," Sam said, disturbed, "except that the test bombarded everything with particles that restarted the conversion."
"But what that doesn't explain," she said, "is why Daniel knows and we didn't."
Daniel shook his head. "Look, maybe I remembered it wrong and my mind filled in the blanks with an explanation. Memory is not exact; I know that as well as anyone."
Sam shook her head. "Subatomic particles don't come out of your imagination, Daniel. You wouldn't've said it if you hadn't heard it or known it before."
"You saw the test," Jonas said, staring, too. "You must've watched--you were there, on Kelowna, you said so."
"No, I didn't," Daniel said immediately.
"Yes, you did, check the security tape sometime from when you said you were watching."
"Whoa, hold it," Sam said. She let the past minute of conversation whir through her head, then said, "Look, there's no naquadria here. When we get home, we'll figure out whether or not Daniel's actually remembering something from Kelowna, and whether or not it affects our future use and handling of naquadah and naquadria. Right now, we deal with Abydos. Okay?"
Daniel and Jonas looked at each other, then turned back to her. "Okay," Daniel said.
Sam looked down at her Geiger counter and glanced back to gauge how far they'd come. "You can take off your masks and carry your suits if you want--I think we're okay," she said. "C'mon, let's keep moving. Teal'c should meet up with us soon."
Sam had never been this far from the Stargate on Abydos--in fact, they'd only ever been here on foot, and this journey must have taken at least a day or two to walk. She'd known vaguely from little things Daniel had said (before) that Nagada had been chosen for its naquadah and not its fertile soil or ease of living, and that there were mountainous regions where the second-largest settlement on Abydos was nestled. Even then, the picture he'd painted had been a bit hazy, like something he might have seen at some point but didn't remember clearly. He probably hadn't been very far from Nagada in his own lifetime, either, or at least not often.
"I cannot land this vessel far enough into the mountains," Teal'c said as they reached the mountains. "We can see caves from here, but we cannot search effectively from the air."
"Would people come out if they saw us?" Daniel said.
"They'd more likely hide," Sam said. "The Abydons have learned that Goa'uld ships flying overhead are rarely a good thing."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "We have found, however, that there are also no detectable hazards in this region."
"That's good," she said, deciding to rule out radiation and chemical or biological warfare once and for all. "Since it looks like a lot of the damage was sort of...restricted, the people might be okay, after all."
"Unless they died from starvation or extreme climate changes following the impact," Daniel suggested. "Like the dinosaurs on Earth."
Jonas was starting to look nervous, the way people were nervous around psychopaths who didn't seem to care when entire populations of a planet might have been destroyed.
"Daniel," Sam said, "could you...please try to keep in mind that there are real, live people here?"
"Unless they--" Daniel started, then stopped, looking ashamed and not a little frustrated. "Sorry."
Sam leaned against the back of Teal'c's chair and reminded himself that Daniel got like that sometimes--he would be the first to argue for a people's rights, but he would also be the first to poke at some unusual corpse and declare that it was interesting. If he didn't remember Abydos, then his reaction to this destruction was, if a little cold, not totally out of the ordinary. In fact, it was exactly the way Daniel Jackson would react to a planet that looked like this, which they would have assumed to be abandoned. Maybe this was his way of coping.
"Yeah," she said. She patted his arm. "Just tone it down, okay?"
Daniel nodded once, suddenly looking very uneasy again. "I don't like it here," he said.
Surprised, Sam turned to him and said, "What? What do you mean?"
He shrugged. "I just..." He stopped. "I don't know. Never mind."
"No, no," she said. After what he'd just told them about naquadria without even thinking about it, she was not about to ignore it when he said he had a bad feeling about something. "Teal'c slow down. Daniel, what are you talking ab--"
"Teal'c, it's fine," Daniel said, but he was standing far too stiffly for that to be the case. "It's nothing."
Teal'c looked sideways at Sam. She nodded to him to keep flying, but turned back to Daniel, aware of Jonas hovering nearby, unsure whether to jump in. "I need to know what's going on with you, Daniel," she said frankly.
"This place...just...makes me uncomfortable," he said, clearly at a loss himself. He stared out the window for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't think it's anything real to worry about. I just don't like it, that's all."
"Maybe you're psychic," Jonas suggested.
"I'm not psychic," Daniel retorted. "You're the one whose tumor could predict the future."
"So it's possible," Jonas said.
"But there's no reason to think that in this case," Sam said, thinking. "You still don't remember anything about Nagada, or..."
Daniel's hand clenched a little tighter on the console in front of him. "I feel like I forgot something...really important."
"Then this trip might help," she said.
"Not like that. Something else. I shouldn't be here." When she stared at him, not sure how to answer that, Daniel rubbed his eyes and said, "Never mind. I don't know what I'm saying."
"You know what?" she suggested. "Maybe there's some cognitive dissonance associated with this place, even if some of it is subconscious. You know it, but you don't. You...know what happened back there and how, on some level, but logic tells you now that it makes no sense. That might be what's making you uneasy."
"Maybe," Daniel said. He took a breath, as if deliberately calming himself, and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
"Are you going to be okay?" she said.
Sam looked past him to Jonas, raising her eyebrows and glancing pointedly at Daniel. Keep an eye on him. Jonas nodded.
"I will land here, and we will proceed on foot," Teal'c said as he set the teltak down. "Skaara is leading O'Neill toward what he believes is the most likely location."
Jonas stepped out first and looked around. "Are you sure this is the right way?"
"I am certain that we came this way with Skaara," Teal'c said. "Come."
Eventually, though, they reached the end of where Teal'c had followed Skaara and the colonel, and he admitted that he couldn't follow their trail much further on the rock.
"All right, someone get the colonel to use his radio," Sam said, carefully checking her footing before she pulled out her meter and set it to track an RF signal. "Skaara probably knows the way, and the colonel will be with him."
As Jonas reached for his radio, Daniel said, "Hey, I think I see them. Jack!" he called, squinting.
Sam moved until she could see around the bend in the path and followed his gaze. "Oh my god," she breathed when she caught a glimpse of waving cloth that Daniel must have missed with his myopic eyes--that was part of a robe, not combat gear. "That's not the colonel or Skaara."
Even as Teal'c and Jonas scrambled to join them, the person in the distance stopped. Sam couldn't tell from here what he--or she--was doing, but suddenly, the figure disappeared. "Hey!" Jonas yelled, his voice echoing loudly. "Hello? We're friends! S! G! 1!"
"C'mon," Sam said, leading the way around the path as it narrowed and then softened into a less rocky road. "Hello!" she called, too. "Don't be afraid! We're--"
"Quit yelling," the colonel's voice said through their radios. "Keep walking--you're almost there."
As if that were the signal, the speck of a person came back out into view, and close behind was another, and another, and then a flow of people, and excited voices shouting back...
Sam picked up her pace and, and soon she could see what looked like the entire population of Nagada trying to crowd into the path and rush toward them in a wave. Two blurs of olive drab caught her eye, one of them barely managing to break out of the mass of people and the other yelling, "Hey, kids!"
"Sha'uri. I know that one--that's Sha'uri," Daniel said suddenly, perking up for the first time on this planet as another familiar head popped into view, and he rushed past them.
Sam, Jonas, and Teal'c caught up to him just in time to collide with the Abydonian people. Looking out at the open valley that opened up beyond the pass they'd taken to get here, she could see now that their clothing and even coloring didn't all look Nagadan--some of these were people from Nagada, but others were from the other villages and towns she'd heard about before and never seen.
"Major Carter!" someone yelled. It was a young woman who had spoken, one she'd seen in passing a few times before, but several others waved enthusiastically in her direction. Sam waved back and smiled when she saw Kasuf nod at her while Sha'uri tried her very best to strangle her brother in a hug.
Colonel O'Neill was watching with a smile. "Sir," Sam said. "What...they all...?"
"They were miles away from the blast," the colonel said. "Apparently, they actually heard it, but the mountains are fine. Everyone from Nagada has set up shop here. People from more distant towns and villages have gone back to their homes, but Kasuf sent messengers to give them the news about Anubis and the Eyes. They tried to contact us, but obviously..."
"So they've seen the blast site," she said grimly.
His face became more serious. "Yeah," he said. "A lot of people went out there. There was talk of rebuilding, but Sha'uri's been telling people to stay here in the mountains for now--they've at least got shelter here in the caves and fertile ground nearby, and they need all their workers here if they're going to survive past the next harvest season."
"You think they'll make it, sir?" she asked, looking past him and into the village, where even more people were pouring out.
"Yeah, they'll live," O'Neill said confidently. "They're tough. But it'll be hard."
"They're cut off from most of their usual resources, which means they can't trade for all their food. They've never lived anywhere like this. And frankly, I don't think Nagada's sustainable anymore, sir--even a little plant growth will be hard, and I didn't see any animals at all."
"They used to trade in livestock, right?" Jonas remembered. "Talk about changing lifestyles."
"Closer to a river here, though," the colonel said. "A two-hour walk if you're careful not to slip down a cliff face. Kalima natives who are used to the land can make the trip in half that."
"Colonel, has someone checked their water source?" Jonas said. "If enough naquadah particles got spread around after the blast, it could potentially exceed toxic levels."
"As well as other contaminants that might've gotten into the water," Sam added.
"Haven't gotten a chance to check yet," the colonel said. "That'll be a priority. Soil, too, for farming. Do you have what you need to take a look at that?"
"I think so, sir," she said, thinking over the equipment they'd brought. "We can start, at least."
The noise of the crowd stopped.
Sam turned around and saw Daniel standing uncertainly before the throng. As she watched, he took a single step back and looked like he was considering taking several more.
"I'll handle this, Major," the colonel said. "Take Teal'c and Jonas. Follow this path here and figure out what these people need that we can fit it into a teltak."
"Yes, sir," she said, then caught Jonas and Teal'c's eyes and gestured for them to follow her.
23 June 2003; Kalima, Abydos; 0830 hrs
"The others did not escape?" Sha'uri said.
Jack shook his head. "I'm sorry. There's just no way anyone survived that blast except through the Stargate, and only Skaara made it through that way."
"But they turned into light," Skaara said, turning to Jack as if for proof. "Like Dan'yel did. All of us saw."
"We think most of the men who fell defending Abydos Ascended," Jack confirmed.
Daniel suddenly looked over his shoulder, then turned back, frowning. The others didn't seem to notice, though, because Kasuf had come over to touch him lightly on the shoulder. "Hello?" Daniel said, sounding slightly unnerved.
"Dan'yel," Kasuf said, spreading his arms.
When Daniel didn't move--he must not have remembered that the correct response was a hug and might not remember Kasuf at all--Jack stepped in to say, "Ah...yes. That's the other thing. Daniel's back"--he raised his voice to be heard over a sudden outbreak of whispers--"but he doesn't remember very much."
"You are back," Sha'uri said, sounding stunned.
"Uh," Daniel said.
"Sho'ni!" someone said suddenly, and pointed in the direction where the Stargate had once been and where their village had been destroyed. "Irif Dan'yel pen."
"Na nay," Daniel answered, holding up his hands and stepping back. "Ne sakhiu!"
"He really doesn't remember!" Jack said over the noise. "All right? We don't know what happened back there."
"But why did you come back to our world?" Kasuf asked Daniel.
"I...I don't know," Daniel said.
"Look, can we have some space?" Jack called. "Skaara's back..." A glance over showed Skaara, looking very tired but exhilarated, clutching a girl to himself. "There, you see? They've got the right idea. Go and catch up. Plan a wedding. We need to talk to Kasuf."
To his surprise, Sha'uri pulled away and said, "Please, come with me, Colonel. Father..." She stood on her toes to speak quietly into his ear. Kasuf nodded and raised his voice to call some sort of order while Sha'uri beckoned Jack and Daniel back into the ramshackle camp their village had set up.
"My father still commands much respect among the people," Sha'uri told them once they were in her makeshift tent, "but he is growing old. He has been badly ill twice in the last year."
"Ah," Jack said. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Yes," she agreed calmly, smiling quickly at him. Daniel was staring at her as she sat down, and Jack realized that he had no idea where she stood on the spectrum between remembrance and total amnesia, except that he'd dreamed up her name on his own. "Dan'yel?" she said, reaching out to touch his knee.
"I remember you," Daniel said. "And Skaara has told me a lot about you."
"But you do not remember my father? Kasuf? " she asked. Daniel didn't answer, looking embarrassed. "Perhaps there are...things at the SGC that reminded you of my brother and of me."
"Amaunet," Daniel said.
Taken aback, Sha'uri paused and glanced at Jack before nodding. "Yes. You remember--?"
"Shifu," he blurted suddenly. "You were at the SGC with Shifu. We dreamed together, and I never wrote down what we dreamed, but I remember it. And Cimmeria--"
"Yes." Sha'uri squeezed his knee and let go, smiling warmly but keeping a careful distance when it was clear Daniel was still uncomfortable. There was another short hesitation, and then, "You spoke to me of Shifu." She pointed upward. "While you were Ascended. Do you remember?"
"No," Daniel said. "I don't."
Seemingly still stuck on the fact that he'd been there at all and had then come back, she said, "You were so powerful. Why would you wish to give that away?"
"I don't know," Daniel repeated. "Maybe I didn't. We...we think it was my punishment."
"For what?" she said, bewildered.
"Actually," Jack said, "I'm not so sure it was a punishment. I think you Descended all on your own because you got sick of the Others' being so stuck up."
"In any case," Daniel said, shooting him a glance, "there are more important things to talk about now. Like what we're going to do now that we don't have a Stargate on this planet."
Sha'uri nodded. "We will survive, as we always do. Nagada has been our home for thousands of years, but there is enough space in the mountains for Kalima and us both. And if there is no Stargate, then no Goa'uld can use it to find us."
"Anubis didn't need a Stargate," Jack pointed out, but he'd been thinking and had just about come to the same conclusion that she had.
"We can never avoid all danger," Sha'uri said. "The Goa'uld have no reason to return here now that the Eye of Ra is gone, and perhaps they will believe that Anubis destroyed this planet."
Jack nodded slowly. "We can try to leak that rumor," he said. "Let it get out that the Abydonian people died in Anubis's attack. We can even arrange it so that, as far as most of Earth is concerned, there's nothing left here. Not even a rogue division of our government would have any reason to be interested."
"Wh...but...you think we should cut off ties?" Daniel said. "What about...there's still naquadah here. There's...there's..."
...not a lot that Earth's governments care about, Jack thought. "I'm not saying I want to cut off ties," he said carefully. "Unless it turns out to be the best option--the safest option."
Daniel stared at him, then Sha'uri, and then back. "We can get a new Stargate," he said.
"You can't just pick one up at the Home Depot," Jack pointed out.
"There are abandoned planets," Daniel said. "Jack, we could...haul a 'gate over here, like we were going to do for the Tok'ra, and--"
"And we don't have a mothership," Jack said. "A Stargate's not going to fit inside a teltak."
"What about the Prometheus?" he said more insistently. "Wasn't that supposed to be repaired in...in a few months? Even an al'kesh might be big enough, if we ever salvage one. All we'd need to do is find some abandoned planet and bring its 'gate to Abydos. It's not even that far. We'd only need...a week, maybe, to move it and then set it up and go home."
"That area where it used to be is uninhabitable."
"It doesn't matter where we put it," Daniel said emphatically.
"Perhaps it is safer like this," Sha'uri said.
Daniel looked like he'd been punched in the gut. "It's not a long trip," Jack said. "It's the closest planet to us in the Stargate network, Daniel. All you need is a ship with a hyperdrive and a day or so of free time to get there and back."
"We don't have a ship with a hyperdrive," Daniel answered tensely. "Even when the Prometheus is repaired, we're going to need it to protect Earth. Trips to another planet wouldn't be authorized without a good reason, not when it takes a ship out of communications range for days at a time when we need every scrap of defense we can get."
Jack looked at Sha'uri, who seemed genuinely regretful when she said, "I would be greatly saddened to lose the friendship of the Tau'ri. You have done much for me and for my people. But Abydos has survived without Earth, and we will again. Kalima has been kind to the inhabitants of Nagada, and we have begun to rebuild here. I am sure Colonel O'Neill will agree that Earth also does not need Abydos."
"That's not true," Daniel said, though even he didn't sound very convinced.
"It is, my brother," Sha'uri said. "Are there not planets where the SGC can find naquadah? We have little to offer the SGC."
"For the record," Jack said, "the SGC is also very glad to have friends here. If it's all right with you, we'd like to send a few people to help you get started here in the mountains. And there's no reason we can't send a ship once in a while to check. Not often, and probably not anytime soon, since this is the only working ship we've got, but we could eventually find a way."
"And our naquadah?" Sha'uri said. "Your teams have mined carefully to avoid disturbing us, but if we will no longer have the Stargate, we would allow you to take all you need when you go."
"Sure," Jack said. "Now, all of this still has to be approved, but I'm pretty sure it will be."
Sha'uri nodded. "Agreed, with our thanks for all you have done for us."
It was a long moment before Jack realized no one was speaking because they were both waiting for Daniel to protest again. Instead, Daniel said, looking at his feet, "It'll take some time. Right? To...to mine and all."
"Yeah," Jack said. "I don't know if SG-1 can stay the whole time, depending on how much we're going to try to do, but we'll be here if possible."
Daniel nodded. "How long do I have?" he asked, his voice quiet, though he still looked unusually on edge. Sha'uri looked like she wanted to reach for him again but pulled her hand back.
Jack didn't have to ask what he was talking about. "I'd say...couple of weeks, with another check-in after that--maybe once the Prometheus is available again--to make sure things are going well and to tie up last loose ends."
"Right," Daniel said. He nodded again, then stood and left without a word.
Jack debated going after him, but logically, he wasn't going anywhere far from his people, and Jack had a few things left to finish up here. "I'm going back to the SGC soon," he told Sha'uri instead. "I'll take Jonas with me, and hopefully, we'll be back with more personnel and equipment, as well as instructions on how to handle this situation."
Sha'uri nodded. "Your people are welcome here, Colonel, for as long as you can stay. I do not wish to sound ungrateful to your people, but--"
"We've brought enough trouble down on you folks," Jack said, shaking his head. "Our only concern is doing whatever's best for your safety. If that means leaving you out of our reach, then we wish you the best."
"I saw the ruins of Nagada," she said. "It is strange--I mourned the destruction of our burial grounds nearly as much as I do the loss of our home."
"Yeah, uh, it's...a lot of take in," Jack said awkwardly, not really sure how to answer that. He was pretty sure any one of his teammates was better than he at talking to friendly allies.
But she only nodded. "We will remember all that we lost and gained, but our past held many lies and much suffering. Perhaps this is how we can begin again, finally. Nagada was chosen for its mineral; our ancestors lived there as slaves. We can begin here as free people in Kalima. Nagada was our past; Kalima can be our future."
"Well, I'm sure you'll do fine," Jack said.
Sha'uri stood, wrapping her robe more tightly around herself. "Take care of Dan'yel for us, Colonel," she said.
"I'm not sure he'll be coming with us when we go," he confided, standing up with her.
With a small smile, she said, "You have now known him nearly as long as I. How could he ever be at peace here, knowing what the SGC is?" Jack nodded but didn't answer. "Please, come, Colonel--the people are eager to speak to you."
23 June 2003; Kalima, Abydos; 1900 hrs
When darkness fell, Teal'c found Daniel Jackson sitting against the side of the cave where they were staying for the night. A glance inside showed that Major Carter was preparing to sleep--she had spent the day examining the local water sources and planning ways to improve its use--so he returned to the outside and sat down in front of Daniel Jackson.
"Are you all right?" Teal'c said.
Daniel Jackson jumped, as if surprised to see him there. "Teal'c! What?"
"Of what are you thinking?" Teal'c asked.
"Um...well, you know," Daniel Jackson said, hunching his shoulders uncomfortably. "Things."
"Do you not wish to spend time with your people?" Teal'c asked.
"I spent all day walking around and meeting people, but I don't know what to say to them," he said. "They all know me and expect me to know them. And apparently I used to be...a little disobedient and sometimes ran off on my own to go exploring--what are you laughing at?"
Teal'c did not bother to stop smiling. "I am not laughing."
Looking exasperated, Daniel Jackson said, "Well, no one's sure whether or not I should recognize Kalima at all, especially with the new settlement here in the mountains."
"Did you recognize Nagada after spending some time there?" Teal'c asked.
He shrugged. "No, not really. And now this..."
The first time Teal'c had returned to Chulak to find that the towns had been reorganized, his old home abandoned, his wife's home also abandoned... "It no longer feels like your home," Teal'c guessed.
"According to what I'm told, it hasn't been my home for a while," he said, quietly. "And I think people here expect me to...to make it rain on their crops or something." Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Someone asked me to do that while I was helping with reconstruction," Daniel Jackson admitted. "They're starting their farms from scratch and could use some help from the heavens."
"I see," Teal'c said.
"At least at the SGC, inexplicable things are expected to happen," he said. "At least people there knew who I am now, not someone--or something--I used to be."
That was not completely true--many even now looked at him and half-expected him to Ascend--but it was true for SG-1, at least. "What of Skaara?" Teal'c asked.
"Well, Skaara's different," Daniel said. "He and Sha'uri have probably seen things even we would find hard to imagine. They understand better."
Teal'c nodded. "Where is he now?"
"With Seinah," he said. His face took on an expression that was both dismayed and mischievous. "She's very excited that he's alive, and they're going to marry as soon as Skaara's had a chance to set up a home with her, so...I really don't want to see what they're doing right now."
Teal'c suppressed a smile. "You will understand one day," he said.
Daniel Jackson rolled his eyes. "I understand; I just don't need to think about it. Anyway, that was my day. How was yours?"
"Productive," Teal'c said. "The rebuilding has been going well." He attempted to discover what it was that continued to bother Daniel Jackson. "Is something else the matter?"
"No," Daniel Jackson said, and then, "Maybe. I think I'm remembering a few things from when I was Ascended."
"What things?" Teal'c asked.
He shook his head, looking bewildered. "It doesn't all make sense. Most of it's just feelings of...something. Images. Everything I think I remember is something I could have just imagined or dreamed, not anything particularly otherworldly. And..." He looked around, perhaps to ascertain that there were no people nearby, then lowered his voice. "Did Jack ever tell you exactly what Ba'al did to him? There's a note in the report about using the sarcophagus, but did he ever mention anything...well, specific?"
Taken aback, Teal'c could only shake his head. "Indeed he did not. To my knowledge, no one at the SGC knows the details of what he suffered."
"So there's no way I would've heard the details somewhere."
Teal'c set his hands on the ground and leaned his weight onto them. "You believe that you were present during his time in Ba'al's outpost."
Daniel Jackson clenched his hands into fists and knocked one of them agitatedly against his thigh. "If so, one would think I'd have done something more than watch, yes?"
"Perhaps you were unable to act," Teal'c said. "O'Neill himself may be able to shed more light upon this."
Uneasily, Daniel Jackson said, "I don't think he really needs to be reminded of that. Teal'c, don't, uh...don't tell him I said--"
"I will not," Teal'c assured him. He had imagined O'Neill's torture in Ba'al's prison too many times already.
"So. Does Ba'al...huh."
"Are there other instances that you remember?" Teal'c asked. Daniel Jackson blinked thoughtfully at the ground and did not answer. Teal'c peered through the dim lamplight at his friend's eyes and found them unfocused. "Daniel Jackson?"
"What?" he said, startled into looking back up.
This was not the first time such a thing had happened in the past days. "Have you been unwell?" Teal'c asked.
Daniel Jackson shook his head. "I keep...I can't quite..." He sighed again. "There's something I need to remember and I can't. Something really important."
"It will return to you," Teal'c assured him, though he was confident of no such thing.
"Did you know Jack thinks I Descended on purpose? Sha'uri thinks I wouldn't have given it up. I want to agree with her, but what good did I do while Ascended? I don't know what to think."
"Nor do I," Teal'c admitted. "Ascension is a state that some Jaffa strive for their whole lives to achieve. However...you did appear dissatisfied with the limits imposed upon you. That was what O'Neill believed, and indeed, your actions with regard to Martouf and the Eye of Ra suggested the same."
"Wait," Daniel Jackson said, frowning at him in the dark. "Did you say I appeared dissatisfied to you? Sometime other than the thing with the Eye of Ra?"
A part of Teal'c wished that Daniel Jackson had remembered that dream on his own, partly because it would confirm that it had been more than a dream and partly because it would mean that it had been as important to his friend as it had been to himself. He knew this was unreasonable, though--Daniel Jackson was unable to remember many things, including much of his childhood, which Teal'c suspected were the happiest memories he had. No one understood what Oma Desala or the Others had done to him.
"Are you familiar with the ambush of Kresh'tar?" Teal'c said.
"Um...yes, I read that one," Daniel Jackson said. "You met with other rebel leaders. They were killed, but you passed your symbiote to Bra'tac enough to keep him and yourself alive until SG-1 found you."
"There is something that is not in the report," Teal'c said. "As I lay near death, I began to dream. You used your abilities to appear to me in that dream."
Daniel Jackson straightened and stared at Teal'c. "I did?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "When I had sufficiently recovered, you appeared to me again, and that is when I knew: you had stayed with me and watched over me for three days. And that is the reason for which I am eternally grateful to you, Daniel Jackson."
"Wow," Daniel Jackson said. "So you think these things I remember...even though they're hard to believe or imagine..."
"They may be true," Teal'c said. "You were constrained by many limitations while Ascended, but I believe that you did what you could." Daniel Jackson snorted, dissatisfied. "Perhaps you stayed with O'Neill to offer comfort, as you did for me. I am certain you never betrayed who you are."
"It's just... Do you ever wonder if...if you're in the right place? If you're really what people think of you?" He stopped, shaking his head. "Never mind. You're probably not the right person to ask. They just keep talking about things they expect that I can do or what I was, but if I can't... I don't even know what I'm doing anymore."
Teal'c felt his hand try to move toward his symbiote pouch that was no longer a pouch but stopped himself with an effort.
Only months ago, he would not have had to carry medicine like a weakened old man. His symbiote had been his weakness, but it had also given him strength, a mark of who he was. The tretonin had only taken strength from him. The Tau'ri had not yet noticed that he could not lift as much weight as before, or that he tired more easily and wasted more time each day in rest. But one day they would, and if it happened in battle, his weakness would become his team's burden to bear.
"I am beginning to understand what you feel," he said quietly.
"You?" Daniel Jackson said.
"I have become more dependent on tretonin than I ever was on my symbiote," Teal'c said. "The symbiote at least depended on me as well."
"What, so because tretonin is a one-way street, it's worse?" Daniel Jackson asked. His brow furrowed, and he laughed uncertainly. "Teal'c, you're still the best warrior the SGC has ever seen, not to mention one of the most knowledgeable and resourceful--"
"Do not," Teal'c said sharply.
Daniel Jackson stopped. "Teal'c?"
Teal'c stood. He did not wish to trouble his friend with his own doubts. "It is late, Daniel Jackson," he said stiffly.
"Whoa--wait," Daniel Jackson said, standing as well, frowning. "What was that? What are you talking about?"
Forcing himself to remain calm--anything else would be only weakness as well--Teal'c said, "It is nothing. We should rest. O'Neill will return with the teltak before sunrise."
"Are you going to kelno'reem inside?" Daniel Jackson said. "Sam and I are staying this way."
"I no longer perform kelno'reem," Teal'c said. As much as he had hated his symbiote, he had always been able to take comfort in the peace of kelno'reem.
"What--oh," Daniel Jackson said. A look of realization passed over his face, and Teal'c walked past him before he had to answer for it. "Oh. Teal'c, hold on. Are you--"
"Major Carter is asleep," Teal'c interrupted before he pulled aside the curtain to their shelter. "You should be as well."
27 June 2003; Nagada Ruins, Abydos; 0300 hrs
SG-1 stayed on Abydos with a team of engineers, who worked to devise a more efficient irrigation system while SG-1 and Abydonian volunteers sifted through the ruins of the village. Teal'c assisted as much as he could in packing and loading the hastily collected naquadah and did not react when one of the items O'Neill and Jonas Quinn had brought back from Earth was several more doses of tretonin.
"Just in case," Jonas Quinn said, giving him a tentative smile. "Not that you need it. I mean, you do, obviously, physically, but--"
"Thank you," Teal'c interrupted. He took the drug and returned to work.
Teal'c had expected Daniel Jackson to spend these next days with the people he had known as a child, trying to regain memories or asking what he had missed in the last year. That he was not doing so as much as expected, however, was concerning.
"You think he's been sticking with us now because he's planning to stay here?" Major Carter said worriedly while they worked together, stacking crates of unrefined naquadah and securing them in the cargo hold. "Like he's trying to spend as much time with us as he can before...?" She raised her eyebrows.
But neither was that correct. Daniel Jackson was supposed to have been helping several meters away with Jonas Quinn, but Teal'c could see that he was not paying attention. It took a gentle nudge from Jonas Quinn to startle him back to focus.
"I do not believe that is the case," Teal'c said.
As he began to step out of the cargo bay, however, Major Carter called, "Teal'c, look out!"
Too late, the sound of shifting caught his attention, and he turned to see a large crate sliding from its place on the teltak. He reached automatically to catch it, even as Major Carter said, "Don't, what are you--"
He caught the crate easily, but he had not been paying attention and had not seen how heavy it was. It continued falling despite his efforts, and he stumbled to the floor beneath its weight--
Several hands grabbed the edges of the crate, and before long, the weight disappeared. "Teal'c!" O'Neill's voice said as the container rolled onto its side. "You okay, buddy?"
Teal'c sat up and found that he needed a moment to pull breath into his lungs when he had not noticed before that he had lost his breath. "I am fine," he said. O'Neill was there, but so were Jonas Quinn and Daniel Jackson and half of the Abydons who had come to help.
"Yeah, sure," O'Neill said, his tone now angry. "What the hell were you doing? That's solid naquadah in there. It took you and two other men to lift it in the first place!"
"Jack," Daniel Jackson started, "he was just reacting to--"
"He was just going to get himself flattened," O'Neill snapped back. "And why the hell wasn't that strapped down?"
Teal'c pushed himself angrily to his feet, surprised when the floor tilted beneath him. "Careful," Daniel Jackson's voice said as a hand reached for him.
Steadying himself, Teal'c grabbed Daniel Jackson's arm before it could reach him. "Leave me be," he growled.
Two surprised eyes blinked at him. Before anyone could speak further, he pulled roughly away from Daniel Jackson's hand.
"Teal'c, whoa," Major Carter said. "Take it easy."
"Uh...Daniel?" Jonas said. "Hello?"
Ignoring them all, Teal'c turned and strode back outside.
Another hand stopped him before he could return to his work. Teal'c attempted to throw it off again, but O'Neill was more persistent.
"All right," O'Neill said, standing squarely in his way. "Talk."
"There is nothing to say," Teal'c said.
"Don't give me that," O'Neill said.
Even now, Teal'c knew he could hurt any of his human friends if he so wished. He pulled his arm away from O'Neill, but it was quickly grabbed again.
"What's wrong with your arm?" O'Neill said.
Only then did Teal'c realize that there was an ache in his shoulder. "I am fine," he repeated.
"You know how this works," O'Neill said. "If there's something wrong with you, I need to know."
"Fine, yeah, I know," O'Neill finished, the words clipped. He looked over Teal'c once more, then said, "Have one of the medics on SG-8 check you out. Don't--don't give me that eyebrow! I don't need you ripping your arms out while we're here. Don't do any more heavy lifting until you're cleared."
"O'Neill--" Teal'c said before he could go.
Teal'c looked past him at SG-1 and several Abydons, all of them working hard, all of them humans and some barely half his weight.
"Teal'c," O'Neill said more quietly, "what's going on with you lately?"
"I have been dishonest with you," Teal'c said. "We are not in battle this day, but if we were, this weakness would be unacceptable."
"You tried to catch a giant, falling box full of naquadah," O'Neill said, sounding exasperated. "That's not weakness--it's...gravity. So you strained a muscle or something--anyone else might've been crushed."
"Only months ago," Teal'c said, "such an injury would already have been healed by my symbiote, or nearly so." To humans, he had often seemed extraordinarily strong or courageous; it pained him now to concede that some of that strength and bravery was only a knowledge that his body could withstand injuries that might seriously damage or cripple a human. Without that, and without the physical power in which he had always taken pride...
"Well," O'Neill said. "Yeah. So?"
"In battle, I could no longer guarantee that--"
"Teal'c, for cryin'..." O'Neill interrupted, then stopped and sighed. Pointing a finger toward the edge of their working area, he said, "You need to go see a medic now. Later--before we walk into battle--we're gonna have this talk again."
They returned to the village in the mountains in the evening. After their meal, while others prepared to rest before the next day's work, Daniel Jackson found him inside the part of the cave being used by SG-1 and sat in front of him. "We salvaged a few things from the intact bit of Nagada," he said, holding up a small, clay statue and pointing at a bundle he had been carrying with him. "See?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"It's a little broken," Daniel Jackson said when an arm fell off into his lap. "Everything we found is. Too much wind and such, I guess. See, there used to be a gate around the village--"
"I saw the village gates many times," Teal'c reminded him.
He stilled for a moment. "Right. I knew that."
"Do you plan to take some of these with you when you return to the SGC?" Teal'c asked.
"No. They're not mine." Daniel Jackson shook his head and bundled the items up in the cloth sack again. "The memories belong to the Abydons more than they do to me." Teal'c began to point out that such familiarities might bring back more relevant memories, but Daniel Jackson interrupted. "So," he said. "How's the arm?"
"Fine," Teal'c said.
"Captain Patters said you strained your shoulder. Which I know isn't something you'd normally stop for, but we've got other people working already, and a ship, and no life-or-death situations. So Jack says to take it easy."
"Hm," Teal'c said.
"He said he talked to you. And you said some funny things about your ability to serve, and--"
"And he sent you to talk to me," Teal'c finished.
Daniel Jackson looked embarrassed but said, "Okay, yeah. You know how he is about things like this. Look, I may not remember everything, but I remember enough to know something's been bothering you. It's not just today--it was before that. Jack thinks so, too. So do Sam and Jonas."
"Your concern is unnecessary," Teal'c said, irritated.
"Actually," he said, "we're pretty sure we know what's wrong."
Teal'c scowled. "Then there is no mystery."
"Well, maybe it would help to talk about it," Daniel Jackson said. "Do you want to talk?"
Teal'c looked at him in disbelief, but Daniel Jackson seemed completely earnest. "Perhaps I should ask what has been wrong with you lately," he countered.
"What?" Daniel Jackson said blankly, appearing confused. "What are you--hold on, are you avoiding my question?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said flatly.
Daniel Jackson sighed. "I'm very confused," he said with tightly restrained frustration. "Frankly, I'm confused about a lot of things at the moment, so could you maybe explain...something to me? Anything. Pick a topic." He waited, and when Teal'c didn't answer, he tried, "Is this about the tretonin?"
"I have already explained to you the effects of tretonin," Teal'c said.
"I know the dosing has been settled," Daniel Jackson said. "And in the end, you're still as strong as you were before. You lift pretty much the same weights in the gym and run just as fast, or you would if you weren't always exhausted from not being used to your sleep cycle, and that crate that fell on you today would've fallen whether or not you'd had a symbiote."
But he would been faster if he had had a symbiote. He would barely have noticed any discomfort and would have continued working again immediately. "I was preoccupied."
"Okay, well, you can't blame that on the tretonin. Or..." Daniel Jackson frowned at him. "Or can you? This is really bothering you that much, isn't it?"
"What would you know about it?" Teal'c said quietly.
"Nothing," Daniel Jackson said. "Okay? I understand that I...can't understand. I do know your symbiote was a big part of how you saw yourself, but it doesn't mean that replacing it actually changes who you are as a person."
"You are not truly a student of psychology, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "I do not wish to speak further of this."
"I...wish to speak further about why you think I think I'm a student of psychology," he said, frowning. "Did I tell you that in the dream I invaded?"
Teal'c raised his chin. At times, he forgot that he was the only person to whom that dream had been real. "As I said before, it was not an invasion."
"Meaning 'yes,'" Daniel Jackson said. "Sorry if I'm repeating something I said in the dream, but you thought it was right then, didn't you? Has something changed?"
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, hoping he would stop.
"Do you not call me 'chal'ti' anymore?" Daniel Jackson asked suddenly. "You used to. I remember that."
Surprised, Teal'c said, "You are becoming too old to be called that, and a tek'ma'tae does not fight alongside his chal'ti as if they were equals." He would feel uneasy calling Daniel Jackson so now, after his friend had guided him through the m'al sharan dream.
"Right," Daniel Jackson said, looking intently at the ground. He seemed about to speak, but then did not.
It did not take long for Teal'c to realize that this was the same thing that had been happening to Daniel Jackson over and over lately--the same perplexed look of concentration, the distraction from everything. "Perhaps you should worry about yourself before being concerned with me," Teal'c suggested.
Daniel Jackson jumped. "What? Oh. S-sorry. You know what, I...I'll leave you alone, then. For now. Just. Please talk to one of us when you're ready."
Teal'c sighed. "Are you all right? You have been exceedingly distracted of late."
"I'm fine." He began to stand, then hesitated and said, "What about your son?"
"Rya'c?" Teal'c said.
"Does he call you 'Tek'ma'tae?' Or does he call someone else that?"
"I...have not been able to train him myself," Teal'c said. "Bra'tac, perhaps."
Daniel Jackson nodded. "Is he with Bra'tac now?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "Why do you ask this?"
Instead, Daniel Jackson rubbed his eyes and said, "I don't know. Just thinking aloud, I guess." And once again, before he left, he sat back down and said, "Do you want to meditate with me tonight?"
"You know that I have discontinued the practice of kelno'reem," Teal'c said.
"Well, yeah," he said, "but people meditate when they don't have symbiotes, too. I've always found it useful, even without being able to reach true kelno'reem. Well, not always, since I get the feeling I wasn't too good at it, with the whole...staying quiet and--"
"If you wish," Teal'c allowed, "we may meditate together."
"Now?" Daniel Jackson said.
"Can you be silent now?" Teal'c said. Daniel Jackson pressed his lips together, adjusted his seat once more, and closed his eyes.
It had been weeks since Teal'c had tried this. He closed his eyes as well and took a deep breath, ignoring the sounds of the Abydonian people moving around them. Automatically, he reached out to seek harmony with a symbiote that he no longer possessed and found an emptiness where another presence had always been before. He forced himself to pull back and satisfy himself with the more shallow state that humans could achieve.
He could hear Daniel Jackson moving, unable, as always, to be still for the first several minutes until he finally calmed his mind enough. Teal'c remained unmoving and waited for the sounds of shifting to stop before he allowed himself to relax fully, listening only to the familiar sound of Daniel Jackson's steady breathing.
Some time later, he heard the breathing change rhythm.
Teal'c thought nothing of it at first--while in kelno'reem, it was easy to be aware of such slight disturbances, but he had watched over Daniel Jackson often and knew that it was difficult at the best of times for a young human who thought too much to calm his mind for so many minutes at a time.
However, instead of returning its previous rhythm, Daniel Jackson's breathing only became more unsettled. Teal'c opened his eyes to see Daniel Jackson's eyes squeezed tightly shut, his brow wrinkled, his hands clenched tightly on his knees.
"Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c said. There was no answer. "Daniel Jackson!"
With a gasp, Daniel Jackson's eyes snapped open. He looked around himself wildly, then leapt to his feet. "I--I need to..."
Teal'c rose as well, holding out an arm to restrain him. "Are you all right?"
Daniel Jackson looked at him for the first time. "Teal'c," he said. "I think Rya'c is in danger."
27 June 2003; Kalima, Abydos; 1800 hrs
"You think Teal'c and Daniel are done talking now?" Carter said.
Jack checked his watch. "Probably," he said. The advantage of sending Daniel to straighten out Teal'c's head was that Teal'c would get a chance to try and straighten out Daniel's in return. "Actually, we should all get back to them and turn in for the night. There's still a lot of work to be done." Looking into the next room, he called, "Jonas, curfew!"
Jonas looked up from where he had been examining one of the quern-stones someone used for grinding flour for bread each day. "Yes, sir," he said, slipping out of the workroom. "You know, these caves could actually provide some good protection--better than being in the open and protected by wooden gates, frankly, and there are plenty of places to hide or set up a defense if a Goa'uld does come back."
"Don't tell them it's better they've had to uproot and start over," Carter said.
"Right," Jonas said, looking around as if afraid someone had heard and would be offended. "No, I didn't mean... I think they'll get along all right, that's all."
"They're a tough people," Jack said, thinking of the boys who had helped him and his team fight off Ra. "They'll make it, with or without us. Maybe it'll even be better not to be associated with Earth anymore in the galactic eye--too many complications." Earth hadn't directly done anything major to Abydos except Ra, but Heru-ur, Apophis, and Anubis had all come to poke around after that. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to make an example out of Abydos.
Before any of them could leave, though, he heard the sound of footsteps pounding on rock and Daniel's voice calling, "Jack! Jack! Sam!"
Jack hurried out of the cave they were in, and Daniel barely stopped in time to avoid barreling into all of them. "What happened?" he said, taking in the wide eyes.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c called, a few steps behind.
"What's going on?" Carter said. "Teal'c?"
"I do not know," Teal'c said, looking worried. "He spoke of--"
"Rya'c," Daniel said. "Um. And Bra'tac. They're in...somewhere...a planet. A-a prison or something. With a lot of other Jaffa. Someone's making them work, and there's..." He paused, squeezing his eyes shut, and said, "A ship. It's floating. They're working naquadah, and some of them are getting sick, and there are two moons, and they're building a ship--"
"Whoa, whoa, okay," Jack interrupted, holding up his hands. Daniel stuttered to a stop. Looking at Teal'c, he asked, "What are you talking about? How do you know--"
"I was there!" Daniel said. "I was standing right there, watching them, and I couldn't do--"
"From when you were Ascended?" Jonas said.
With a jolt, Jack remembered sitting in a prison with Daniel standing there and watching but not able to do anything. Perhaps Daniel was remembering that, too, because his eyes flicked toward Jack once and then away. "I think so."
"So, some sort of forced labor camp," Jonas said. "Maybe they were caught while recruiting. Do you know where? Did you recognize the planet?"
Daniel swallowed. "You--you believe me?"
"I've believed more for less," Jack said. "Do you know where they are or not?"
"No," Daniel said. "I don't recognize anything I saw there. Except...Jack, it's Ba'al. The ones in charge wear his mark."
Jack carefully suppressed the intense desire to find Ba'al and squeeze the life out of him. Or run away and hide. Neither was a viable possibility. "Doesn't matter," he said. "We'll figure this out and get them back. When's the last time we had any contact with Rya'c and Bra'tac?"
"Less than four months ago," Teal'c said.
"And Daniel Descended over a month ago," Carter added, "so they've been there between one-and-a-half and four months. If we knew where...who might know where they've been going?"
"Rak'nor is likely to know," Teal'c said.
"Then we have to go back to the SGC," Daniel said. "Jack, we're stranded here on Abydos--we need a Stargate to do anything. We have to leave, now."
Jack nodded. "All right. Teal'c, Carter, go get the teltak ready. Jonas, Daniel, you two go back to where we're staying, gather any essential gear, and bring it to the ship. I'll tell Sha'uri and Kasuf we're going back to the SGC but SG-8 will stay and we'll be back when we're done. And we'll take one other person who can fly the ship back here after dropping us off. Move it."
Skaara volunteered to fly them to the SGC and back, for the simple reason that he actually knew how to fly a Goa'uld cargo ship from the many times he had done it as Klorel. Jack had forgotten that not every SG team member had learned to fly Goa'uld ships--particularly on support teams like SG-8--so, with Sha'uri's blessing and a promise that nothing bad would happen to Skaara this time, they lifted off.
Daniel spent the first hour on the ship perched on top of a crate full of glassy naquadah and furiously sketched everything he remembered from his brief vision. Then he sat completely still, frowning at his feet. Compared to how jumpy he'd been on Abydos, this was more familiar--not exactly calm, but rather the look he had often worn before an important mission when he had been unhappy about something.
Teal'c spent most of the time pacing in his slow, deliberate way that promised violence in the near future. Jack was tempted to tell him to stop making everyone nervous, but the image of one's son being worked to death in a forced labor camp probably trumped just about anything anyone could say.
"I'm sure he's all right," Jack tried.
"He's with Bra'tac," Jonas offered. "That's gotta count for a lot."
"Bra'tac would've planned for the unexpected," Carter said. "He should have enough tretonin for a couple of months, and I'm sure he'd know to stretch it out once he stumbled into trouble."
Teal'c stopped, turned around, and paced in the other direction.
"I should have said something sooner," Daniel muttered from his perch on their explosive cargo as Skaara appeared at the bulkhead and joined them.
"Ah, give it up," Jack said. He pointed out, "It's a wonder you remembered at all," which made Teal'c tense even more.
Daniel dropped his head into his hands. "I'm still missing something else," he said. "Something about an incoming wormhole to base."
"To base?" Carter repeated, bending to pick up Daniel's sketches. "Have we been to that planet?"
"Or someone on that planet tried to get to us," Jonas said.
"Bra'tac," Teal'c said.
"But you have an iris," Skaara pointed out.
"Well, maybe he tried to radio a message since he didn't have a GDO?" Jonas suggested.
Carter shook her head. "We definitely would've noticed if a message had gotten through. And if he didn't manage to send the message before he was cut off, there's not a lot of information we can get from records of an incoming wormhole."
"I just stood there," Daniel said in a low voice, almost to himself, still scowling at his hands.
"If you could've done something while you were all glowy," Jack said, "you would've. Now everyone calm down--that includes you, Teal'c."
"My son--" Teal'c started.
"I get it!" Jack snapped. "Sit down."
Teal'c gave him a long look and finally sat stiffly.
"When we get back," Jack said, "we'll give Skaara a Tollan long-range communicator so we can call Abydos and get a ride back afterward. Teal'c will find Rak'nor, and Carter and Daniel can start looking through wormhole records while Jonas and I...try to make ourselves useful. There's nothing we can do now. Any questions?" he added, meaning that the discussion was over.
"No, sir," Carter answered for all of them, meaning that the message was taken.
"Good." Jack turned to Skaara and firmly changed the subject. "So. How's the fiancée?"
Finally, Daniel raised his head and turned to his brother. Skaara was already looking back and gave him a regretful, knowing smile before he answered. Jack let Skaara chatter about his wife-to-be and watched out of the corner of his eye as Daniel looked away.
28 June 2003; SGC, Earth; 1000 hrs
They reached Earth, returned to the SGC, and sent Skaara home, and by the time Teal'c brought Rak'nor back to help, Carter and Daniel were still browsing through the records.
"I've gone through everything from the last four months," Daniel said when Jack found him there. "I'm going through outgoing wormholes, too, just to make sure, but there's nothing."
"Rak'nor's here," Jack told him. "Let's see if he has anything for us."
Daniel blinked, then stood quickly and ran into the briefing room.
By the time they caught up, Rak'nor was already staring at a hectic sketch. "...a ship being built," Daniel was saying. "It wasn't completed, but it was already in the air, so there must have been some sort of...floating...mechanism. Or maybe it was suspended on something..."
"Goa'uld ships are sometimes built on antigravity platforms," Carter suggested.
"That would work. I think most of the prisoners were refining naquadah for the construction."
Rak'nor raised his eyes from the sketch, looking alarmed. "I know the planet which you describe," he said. "Erebus." Teal'c stiffened, clearly recognizing the name as well.
"Erebus," Daniel repeated. "That sounds...pretty bad. It's from Greek mythology."
"Condemned souls pass through there after death," Jonas said, exchanging a grim look with him.
"Then it is aptly named," Rak'nor said. "The planet is used for the construction of hatak vessels and the purification of naquadah to build them. Only Jaffa prisoner labor is used--only they can stand the intense heat and toxic gases of the blast furnaces fed by underground volcanic systems. Eventually, even the Jaffa succumb."
"I am aware of such places," Teal'c said, nodding. "Where Jaffa prisoners of war unwilling to serve a new Goa'uld master are taken to be worked to death."
"Which would make it the perfect place to recruit rebels," Jonas said, "but something must have gone wrong."
"The planet was recently taken by Ba'al," Rak'nor said.
"That fits, too," Daniel said. "They were definitely Ba'al's forces."
Hammond nodded. "While you were away," he told them, "Korra of the Tok'ra told us that Yu lost control of the System Lords' alliance. Rumor has it that there was a lot of unrest, and Yu's own First Prime surrendered what he commanded of the armies to Ba'al, the strongest of the other System Lords."
"So now Ba'al is not only in control of the prison world where Bra'tac and Rya'c are stuck," Jack said, "but he's also in control of the four remaining Eyes."
"At least most Goa'uld ships aren't configured to use the Eyes properly," Daniel said absently as he filled in something on his sketch. "The circuits aren't designed to handle that much power."
Confused, Jack started to ask just how the hell he knew anything about Goa'uld circuitry or how the Eyes worked, but, to his surprise, Carter held out a hand to stop him before he could speak. "But if Ba'al knew how to use the Eyes," she said casually, though her gaze was intent, "he could build a ship that does support them."
Daniel shrugged. "He could be adapting that ship they're building on Erebus to handle...the...to handle..." Suddenly, he stopped and looked up. "What?"
"What?" Jack said.
But Carter was coiled tight with either excitement or anxiety. "Sirs, it's possible those slaves are building a ship that can use the Eyes as a weapon," she said. "Which means that the stakes just got higher--Rya'c and Bra'tac aside, we need to shut down construction on that ship."
"What?" Jack repeated. "Where did all of this come from?" Jonas pointed to Daniel's head. Daniel slapped his finger away. "Ah," he said.
Hammond had the resigned expression that meant he wasn't certain they were all sane, but he was going to go along with it, anyway. "Is it possible the four Eyes will actually be there?"
Jack turned to Daniel, who said defensively, "What?"
"It's possible, sir," Jack said. "If security on that planet is good enough, Ba'al could be keeping the Eyes there with the ship."
"The security is more than sufficient," Rak'nor said. "However, that makes this mission all but impossible."
"Why?" Daniel said.
"The chaapa'ai on Erebus is impenetrable," Rak'nor said. "A force field much like your iris blocks it, making attack or rescue through it impossible."
"Well, someone must get through somehow," Carter pointed out.
"We believe a signal must be used to lower the force field," Rak'nor said. At the edge of his sight, Jack saw Daniel twitch minutely, then close his eyes. "But we have no way of knowing what that signal is."
"Daniel?" Jack asked warily. This was the kind of crap he really hated to deal with, but after seeing various people turn into light or remember a symbiote's thoughts or tell the future or make things move with their minds...well, it wasn't something he was going to ignore, either.
Even as the others' attention fell on him, Daniel's eyes flew open. "The Alpha Site," he said, backing toward the stairs that lead toward the control room. "The incoming wormhole I was remembering...it wasn't to the SGC. They--they attacked the Jaffa guarding the 'gate. Bra'tac dialed the Alpha Site and sent a signal that lowered the force field--he must've been hoping to get through without having to worry about our iris, but they were recaptured first. But the deactivation signal might have gotten through."
"Major Carter, check the Alpha Site records," Hammond said.
"Yes, sir," Carter said, and sat back down at the computer, Daniel hovering impatiently behind her.
Rak'nor eyed Daniel in confusion, clearly with no idea what to make of this. "Long story," Jack said. "Not important right now."
"Come on, it has to be here!" Daniel snapped from the next room. Jack descended the stairs and joined them.
Carter held up a hand. "Just give me a minute," she said.
Jonas gave Jack an apprehensive look. "Now you know how we felt for five years," Jack said.
"Shh," Daniel told him.
"You don't even know what you're looking at," Jack answered, gesturing at the records scrolling rapidly down the screen.
"Sam does," he retorted.
Sure enough, Carter said, "Here. A coded energy signal was received and recorded through the Alpha Site 'gate three months ago. It was analyzed but no one was able to determine its origin or its purpose."
"It's the deactivation code for the force field," Daniel said confidently.
"Are you sure?" Carter asked.
"I am sure," Daniel insisted.
"I can synthesize this energy signature," she said. "So...I can get us through the 'gate on Erebus."
Teal'c turned to the general as Daniel added, "And I can provide details of the defenses."
"Do it," the general said, pointing back toward the briefing room. "I'll call in SG-3 to join you in the meantime. If you can find those Eyes and salvage them..."
"Could you teach us how to use them?" Jonas asked Daniel.
"No," Daniel said, frowning. "Why would I know that?" Jack raised his eyebrows. "I don't know. I have no idea."
"Getting them out of the System Lords' possession will be your first priority," the general decided. "Bring them back if you can. If you can't, destroy them."
"O'Neill," Teal'c said just before they all went through, "I wish to tell you that I believe I may be a liability on this mission."
"Still having problems with your shoulder?" Jack asked absently as he adjusted the gun in his grip.
"No," Teal'c said.
Jack looked up, hoping this would turn out to be some kind of twisted joke, which, of course, it was not. "You're not a liability, Teal'c."
"If I should die, it is my wish that you watch over Rya'c," Teal'c said insistently.
It was only because Teal'c seemed so dead serious that Jack said, "Well...let's see it doesn't come to that."
28 June 2003; Erebus; 2300 hrs
Jack had wondered, sometimes, how Daniel had been able to sit there and watch Ba'al torture him and not do anything.
Logically, fine, he got it now. The Others would've rained some serious mayhem on them, but Daniel wasn't someone who did logical things in emotional situations like that. He hadn't been, anyway, until he'd Ascended and apparently decided that he couldn't justify allowing certain ends to pass, no matter what the means. Jack decided it was another reason to be pissed off at the Others, and sometimes he wondered which Daniel they'd sent back--the one who would ruthlessly order untrained boys into battle, knowing he was sending them to die, or the one who would act impulsively, sometimes stupidly, in the name of justice.
It wasn't right. Jack had trained Daniel to accept those kinds of decisions when necessary, but making that call had never been Daniel's job; it was Jack's.
As they crouched in the dark, somewhere in the distance, Teal'c muffled a grunt of pain. "Colonel..." Jonas breathed from one side of him.
"Quiet," Jack ordered.
"Sir," Carter said, crawling back toward them from her side of the ridge.
"Hold your position," Jack whispered harshly.
"We're just going to sit here?" Daniel whispered from the other side, his gaze boring into Jack as they heard the sound of the whip again.
You just sat there, Jack thought. You should know exactly how I feel. "Yes," he said. "We're just going to sit here til we can find another way in." He wasn't too worried about Carter and Daniel--they might not like it, but they knew it was sometimes necessary to sit back even when a friend was being tortured if it meant a way out for all of them. They'd learned that the hard way on Bedrosia. Jonas was the wild card here, and for all Jack had come to trust in the man's abilities and even his judgment, he was still inexperienced when it came to direct combat.
Well. Everyone had to learn sometime.
Jonas twitched and braced himself when the whip whistled through the air again, as if waiting for a scream that never came.
As Jack looked around, searching for another way, Carter said quietly, "They've sent a search party. They must suspect more of us--especially if they recognize Teal'c."
"We'll just have to stay out of sight, then," Jack said absently.
"We need a distraction," Jonas said. "Set off a bunch of grenades or something and then run in and grab Teal'c. And we can use that as a distraction to take out the mothership."
To Jack's surprise, it was Daniel who said, "Not yet."
"Not yet?" Jonas said, his expression accusing. He might be friendly with Daniel, but they hadn't fought beside each other before.
"Not while they're literally holding onto Teal'c," Daniel snapped back, glaring at Jonas as if to say that no one had better even hint that he would have said that if there had been a better way. "Wait until they stop and leave him for morning. That's when we move."
Jack winced as the whip fell again. "Yeah," he agreed, "but we still need a distraction. Grenades aren't gonna cut it. I was thinking of something"--a glint caught his eye, and he turned to see the half-completed mothership hovering in the air. "...bigger. Anyone have an idea what security's gonna be like on that ship?"
Carter shook her head. "Probably a few ground troops, an alarm of some sort if we break in. Even if not, if we can cause enough damage to raise an alarm, it'll be pretty distracting, sir."
Looking around, Jack counted the people he had with them and said, "All right, you three"--he pointed to Carter, Jonas, and Daniel--"head toward the ship as soon as they're done with Teal'c. Look for any Eyes and then give us that distraction. We'll cover you on your way back. SG-3, spread out and set up along this ridge."
29 June 2003; Erebus; 0600 hrs
"All right," Sam whispered, checking once more to make sure there really were exactly two Jaffa guarding the ring transporter under the mothership. She gestured for Daniel and Jonas to join her and waited until she heard both sets of soft footsteps approach. She held up a hand to signal to them behind her, 'On three. Me left; you right. One--'
A zat gun discharged just to the left of her, and another right over her head. The two Jaffa dropped to the ground.
Sam jumped, whirling around, then glared when she saw Daniel retracting his zat and Jonas looking guilty. "We counted," Daniel whispered, pointing between himself and Jonas. "You weren't looking."
Jonas gave her a grin, then moved past both of them and bent to find the ring activation device from one of the fallen Jaffa.
The colonel was going to go nuts with these two. Daniel had been bad enough on his own, but this was getting ridiculous now that he'd found a coconspirator, and it was only going to encourage Jonas to start stretching the rules more. In fact...
At the moment, the two of them were digging through the Jaffa's armor, each furiously searching one of the two fallen guards. "What--what are you...?" Sam said, raising her gun to watch their backs, since they were clearly too busy to watch anything that wasn't in front of their noses.
"One of us is supposed to stay here and keep watch while the other one goes with you," Jonas explained, wrinkling his nose as he reached past his Jaffa's breastplate.
"Where's the activator?" Daniel said. "Ah--dammit, my watch is stuck in his armor--"
"Got it!" Jonas said, standing and raising the ring device. "I'm going in."
"Damn," Daniel repeated and finally extracted his hand from behind a plate of retractable armor. "Fine, I'll stand guard. Hand it over."
"What is wrong with you two?" Sam hissed. "This isn't a game!"
Daniel turned toward her, all trace of friendly competition gone. One of the Jaffa on the ground began to stir. Before Sam could move, Daniel raised his zat and shot the man a second time. Jonas jumped a little, staring at the corpse.
"We know that," Daniel said, then tucked away his zat and pulled his P90 around into his hands.
Sam gaped at him for a moment, trying to quash that feeling she'd kept having recently, the one that said something had been just a little off about Daniel ever since he'd come back from his stint as an Ascended being. They didn't have time to explore it now, though, so she took a breath and stepped onto the ring platform. Jonas joined her and wordlessly tossed the device at Daniel.
"If we don't contact you in fifteen seconds, assume we were caught," she said. "Stay sharp."
With a nod, Daniel stepped back, already taking off his pack, and activated the rings.
The white light of the ring transporter faded around them. Footsteps clanked toward them, and she ducked into a side passageway, checking to make sure Jonas had found cover before pressing herself against the wall.
A line of Jaffa walked past them. Sam waited until they were gone, then gestured for Jonas to follow. "We're in," she said.
"Good luck," Daniel answered in their ears.
"The Eyes should be near the engine room," she said. Unless they were otherwise locked up, but they'd worry about that if the first try failed. "This way?"
Jonas squinted, calling to mind the dozens of ship layouts particular to each System Lord that he'd memorized, then whispered, "This isn't standard design. It's new."
Sam looked around, picturing what the ship looked like from the outside and trying to decide which way made most sense--where the best place for centralized circuits would be, where security would be tightest on a lackadaisically guarded ship, where power had to be drawn from... "Let's try this way."
The corridors were sparsely manned, apparently under the assumption that the shield on the 'gate would hold most enemies at bay. Despite a wrong turn, it didn't take long for them to find the weapons control panels next to the control room.
Sam looked around the control room. "I can't believe they're not guarding this place--" she started, stepping inside, then had to clench her jaw around a yell of pain as a force shield threw her back with a loud thump.
"Sam Sam Sam, c'mon," Jonas whispered, grabbing her by the arm and helping her up. "Someone must've heard that."
They had just ducked back behind a bulwark when a line of Jaffa ran past. Sam took a deep breath and tried to rub feeling back into her tingling arms. She peeked out and saw one of the Jaffa pull out a handheld device, deactivate the shield, and walk inside the room. Four--no, five Jaffa, and footsteps coming around the corner...
From the other side of the wall they were hiding behind, Jonas waved frantically at her.
'Eyes,' he mouthed, then pointed into the room. Sam peeked out again, but couldn't see from her angle. 'Panel,' Jonas mouthed, nodding to show that he was very certain. 'Behind.' He raised his gun a few inches and raised his eyebrows in question.
Sam's hand clenched on her weapon, too--the shield was down now, which made this the perfect time for them to get in--but then dropped it and shook her head. They were too outnumbered to do anything but keep out of sight. Stay down, she signaled. Jonas nodded and lowered his gun.
One of the Jaffa barked an order. Sam heard the sound of buttons being pressed, and then the distinctive, metallic footsteps stomped away again. She looked around the bulwark, saw no one, and finally stepped out. "What'd they say?" she whispered.
"The Eyes are safe," Jonas answered, looking anxiously into the control room. "They're starting a sweep of the ship for any intruders. Sam, if we can bring down the force shield..."
Sam looked around for the panel that controlled the shield. She hesitated before touching it, but then realized that, if they lacked experience in direct confrontation against Ba'al, Ba'al also lacked it against them. A Jaffa intruder or rebellious slave would try to enter a sealed room by force; SG personnel had learned to work around Goa'uld force by either stealth or engineering.
She quickly pulled the panel out of the wall, smiling grimly when it came out with little resistance and no additional alarm. "They're routing a lot of power to here," she said, studying the circuit. "It'll take some time to--"
The faint sound of gunfire came through her earpiece. "Daniel?" Jonas said, alarmed.
"I'm fine," Daniel said, whispering. "Just a stray patrol, but hurry. More Jaffa will have heard that."
Sam bit back a curse. "Daniel, we've found the Eyes. If I get them back to the SGC, can you remember how to use them?"
"I don't know."
There was a pause, and then, "Can you destroy them?"
But they're powerful Goa'uld technology, she wanted to say. We could learn so much from them. Instead, she said, "I think we can, but I'd rather not. Can you keep any patrols off our backs?"
"Sam," Daniel said, his voice tense, "you should just destroy them. I probably won't remember anything about them, anyway."
She grimaced, but they were on a timetable here and Teal'c was hurt, so she reached into her bag for enough C-4 to make as big a hole as possible around here. "Okay--stand by," she told Daniel, then released the talk button. "Pull out the power regulator and try to overload the shields," she said to Jonas, pointing to the right panel as she started planting explosives. "With luck, that alone will take out a lot in the control room; if not, it should at least work as a primer for the C-4, and that'll should do the trick."
Jonas squinted at the panel in the dark as Sam pressed plastique into the walls, as close as she could get to the room without touching the shield again. By the time she turned around, Jonas was replacing the panel in the wall. "That should give us a few minutes," he said. "I say five at most, less if they turn on some of these systems. If that blows a big enough hole, we might not even need to get rid of the antigravity panel."
"Let's hope so, 'cause I don't think we've got time to find the antigravity controls," she said. A few minutes, he'd estimated, and without time to check his work, she accepted the guess and set her watch for three minutes.
They had to hide from two more groups of passing guards as they went, and by the time they had almost reached the ring transporter, there was barely a minute left. Just as they'd almost reached the platform, though, another line of guards came into view. This time, they didn't leave--Sam counted six Jaffa, all standing at the ready by the rings.
"This could be a problem," she murmured. A glance over her shoulder showed Jonas crouched at the other wall, his expression asking her what to do next. Her watch said that the power feedback loop had been set two and a half minutes ago. They couldn't just wait it out--she had no idea to gauge just how big the explosion (or explosions) would be when it went, so they had to be as far away as possible and definitely not on the ship itself.
Six against two was bad odds, even with the Jaffa mostly pinned at the end of a corridor--there was still one passageway going off in either direction where they could take cover, and as soon as a fight started, reinforcements wouldn't be far behind. If they could be sure that all six Jaffa would stay relatively clustered in one place, though, more than they were now, then automatic gunfire might win over the slower staff weapons.
If someone came up the rings unannounced, the Jaffa would turn their weapons onto the platform, which meant that they'd all have to stand facing the same way to avoid each other's fire. More than that, they'd stand with their backs to Sam and Jonas, hoping to pin any enemies against the wall on the other side, not knowing that there were SG personnel in the open corridor behind them.
"Daniel, what's your situation?" Sam said quietly.
"I'm waiting," he answered. "What's going on?"
"On my word, I want an empty ring activation," she said, so quietly she had to hope he could decipher her whispered words. "Follow in five seconds. You'll arrive in the middle of a firefight. I count six hostile Jaffa, so stay low--get out of the way. Stand facing camp so you'll come up facing us with your back to the hull. Do you copy?"
"Solid copy," Daniel answered smartly, with the almost-careless tone in the face of mortal peril that the colonel had never been able to drill out of him. "Face camp; dummy ring activation; five count; then ring up and move. Say the word, Sam."
Sam let herself smile--this felt just like any of a dozen training scenarios they'd gone through together--then squashed it as she pulled her focus back, moved her finger into her trigger guard and looked back again. Jonas raised his gun and nodded once.
"Jonas, don't think," Daniel added. "Don't try to wound. You aim and shoot to kill."
"Got it," Jonas whispered, focusing hard on the end of the corridor.
Only when she heard the quick exchange did Sam wonder if that seemingly-childish scramble for the ring activation device back on the ground had been exactly for this reason--Jonas didn't know Daniel's style in battle but trusted his reputation; all Daniel knew was that Jonas winced when someone got shot and hadn't been carrying live firearms in the field for very long. Maybe he'd been trying to protect the newer member of the team, and that was just too much to think about while they were on a ship with live explosives ticking down.
Sam brought her gun to her shoulder and ordered, "Now."
The rings activated.
"Kree lo'sek!" one Jaffa called, and, as Sam had hoped, they gathered together, facing the empty rings.
"...two...three..." Daniel counted in their ears.
Sam shot the first man in the back. Another fell at the same time--courtesy of Jonas, who fired more bullets but made sure at least a few struck home--and she moved to the next target, assessing the scene as she did. "Daniel, move left immediately," she ordered over the sound of her gun--the Jaffa still standing had spun around once they realized someone was behind them, and they were taking cover in a side passageway.
The rings activated again. As a Jaffa started to turn, Sam stuck her head deliberately out into the corridor, opening fire and hoping to draw their attention just a little longer. Of the three Jaffa left, one of them was too well-hidden to hit, but from her angle, she managed to wound one more before scrambling back.
"Check fire!" she called to Jonas, watching for Daniel.
Daniel appeared and immediately threw himself to the side, taking himself out of Sam and Jonas's line of fire ("Now," she ordered, raising her gun again) and already returning fire back into the other side passage. Sam saw the one Jaffa out of her range drop. Jonas took the last one as she hurried forward and saw Daniel stand and finish off the man she'd wounded earlier.
"Sam..." Jonas said, running behind her. "It's gonna go any second now!"
"Get on the platform!" Daniel called, already there. "I hear more coming this way--"
She pushed his head down and stood guard over him as he reset the ring activation device. "Not yet..." she said. Jonas skidded into them, turning as he did to aim at a Jaffa guard following them. "Go!"
They landed back outside. "They'll be right behind us!" Daniel hissed, already running toward the ridge opposite where Colonel O'Neill and SG-3 were.
"Run, run, head for camp!" she told him, urging him forward with her fingertips and glancing back once to make sure Jonas was right behind. The sound of rings activating came from behind him, and Sam grabbed his arm and gave it a tug. "Follow Daniel," she told him, exchanging places with him at the rear to aim at the Jaffa appearing on the ring platform.
Still moving backward as fast as she could while holding her gun steady, she squeezed the trigger, just enough to make the Jaffa scatter near the ship and give her time to turn and try to outrun them.
An alarm sounded on the ship. The Jaffa in the camp turned almost as one toward the commotion. A few turned and started up the ridge to investigate.
"Carter, was that you?" Colonel O'Neill's voice said through her earpiece.
Reminded of other times when they'd had to hijack Goa'uld systems to cause an explosion, Sam sped up and keyed the radio. "Here it comes, sir. Daniel, Jonas, it's--"
The explosion made her duck, looking up immediately as her companions stumbled but kept going.
She glanced back to see the entire mothership wobble in midair, smoke rising from a hole in the hull and debris floating madly, held in place by the antigravity platform. The Jaffa slavers dropped what they were doing and sprinted toward the wreckage, yelling orders.
"Keep moving, faster," Sam said, still following Daniel and Jonas as they ran along the ridge, but Jaffa were running out in every direction now, including theirs, and in five seconds there was going to be more than a handful of hostiles in range of them. "Colonel, request cover fire now--"
The Jaffa party closest to reaching them exploded.
"Have at 'em, boys!" Colonel O'Neill whooped. Sam reached the top of their side of the ridge and dropped down next to Daniel, Jonas crouching on her other side. Turning briefly toward SG-3 and the colonel on the far side of the camp, she saw a mortar in place, still firing shells.
Below them, there was a full-fledged melee breaking out. Teal'c and Rak'nor--or maybe Bra'tac and Rya'c--must have rallied the prisoners to fight back. "Clean targets," she reminded, raising her gun. "We've got a lot of friendlies."
She found her first target and fired, not pausing to see if he was dead or only wounded before she moved on. Just as she was about to try another, a bullet struck from the other side--she glanced up to see Colonel O'Neill in the distance, his gun already trained on someone else.
When nothing sounded on either side of her, though, she remembered that she was with Daniel and Jonas, not Teal'c and the colonel. Daniel looked like he'd picked out a target but wasn't sure enough to shoot, while Jonas's finger wasn't even near his trigger. Neither of them was even close to being a confident sniper at this distance with so many rebel Jaffa clustered around.
"Daniel, take the ones who get separated from the rebels," she ordered, snapping her fingers to catch their attention and pointing at a few who looked like they were trying to flee up the ridge. "Jonas, double back to the ship, make sure no one comes at us from there."
Immediately, Jonas stood and ran back toward the ship. Daniel dropped more comfortably into his crouch and shifted his aim, and this time, his bullets sounded beside hers.
By the time she finally found Teal'c through her scope, he was already standing over the dead body of the Jaffa who had been beating him the night before. Sam allowed herself a moment to be relieved that he was upright--that was always a good sign. Bra'tac and Rya'c joined him, all three of them wielding staff weapons, and Sam turned to search for another target.
"Sam, it's me," Daniel said, and she was still so used to the tone that she didn't even think of twitching away when his hand touched her back to warn her he was doing something, then snaked around to take extra ammunition from her. Shifting slightly to help when the magazine caught on her belt seemed so natural it was almost as if they'd drilled shoulder-to-shoulder just yesterday, not a year and a half ago.
"No one's alive that way," Jonas said, a little breathless, as he ran back to them. "Ship's clean."
"Carter, get the evacuation started," Colonel O'Neill said.
Sam eyed the chaos under them and didn't move, instead raising her gun again to continue helping from here. "Jonas, dial the Alpha Site, send the code, and warn them we've got incoming. Daniel, round up the Jaffa, then catch up to Jonas."
Both of them slithered away from her. She took her eye away from the camp long enough to see Daniel covering Jonas as he ran past the enemy and toward the Stargate.
"Jaffa!" Daniel yelled, barely loud enough over the noise. He ran closer. "Re--" He paused to duck a staff blast, then immediately returned fire.
But Teal'c must have heard, because he took over, his voice easily carrying with decades of experience as a field commander. "Kree Jaffa!" he yelled as Sam left her position and ran toward Daniel. "Re hano Tau'ri! Rak'nor!"
"Re hano Tau'ri!" Rak'nor repeated, and ran from his post to lead the Jaffa toward Daniel.
"Bradio!" Daniel called, slipping into the Goa'uld-English-Abydonian hybrid he often used with Teal'c. "Teal'c, we'll cover you--krel lak, nok!"
Sam saw Teal'c push Rya'c toward the crowd of fleeing Jaffa before she reached a position opposite Daniel. Most of the hostiles left were trying to retreat more than anything--there were still bullets raining on them, and plenty of the prisoners weren't content to stop short of revenge in favor of running.
Waiting for Teal'c, Bra'tac, and Rya'c to stagger past them, she planted herself at the back of the line of rebels. "Daniel, go," she ordered, turning back to the camp to make sure no one followed.
"Yes, ma'am," he said absently before he sprinted off and let her watch his back. She could get used to this.
Jonas was supporting Teal'c gingerly by the arm as Rya'c stumbled toward a waiting stretcher to lower Bra'tac onto it.
"Teal'c?" Sam said as she stepped out onto the ramp in the SGC.
"I will be fine," Teal'c said tiredly.
General Hammond looked around, waiting for Colonel O'Neill to walk out of the wormhole as well before he said, "Welcome back, SG-1."
"The camp has been liberated," the colonel reported, waving at the sergeant in the window to stop holding the 'gate open. The iris closed, and the wormhole fizzled away. "The prisoners followed SG-3 back to the Alpha Site."
"They are anxious to join the rebellion," Rak'nor added, looking satisfied.
Bra'tac raised his head before Janet could order someone to wheel him away. "Then my mission was a success," he said. "Hammond of Texas--it seems I am once again in your debt."
Hammond smiled. "I think it's Mr. Jackson you owe on this one," he said.
Daniel froze in the middle of handing his gun to an airman. "Indeed," Teal'c said, glancing first at Rya'c and nodding once. Daniel looked at Sam, then turned back to Teal'c and bowed very slightly in answer.
The Jaffa walked (or were forced) toward the infirmary. "I've already sent a message to Abydos," Hammond said when SG-1 tried to follow. "I expect someone will be here to take you back and finish up there in less than ten hours."
Sam blinked. She'd all but forgotten that they'd been in the middle of another mission when a memory had kicked them into this one. By the expressions on the others' faces, they were thinking the same.
"Ah...right, sir," the colonel said. "Abydos. Well...Teal'c should probably sit this one out."
"They should be finishing up on Abydos before too long," Hammond said. "I'm sure Teal'c won't mind a little rest."
"Yes, sir," the colonel said.
"Why don't you go talk to him in the infirmary," the general suggested. "Dr. Fraiser has some supplies to send back to Abydos, too. Mr. Jackson, I need to speak with you before you go."
Daniel nodded. "Yes, sir," he said, and followed the general to his office.
Sam glanced back at him once, then followed the rest of them to the infirmary. "Everyone else okay?" she asked.
"Yup," Jonas said, fairly bouncing along the hallway, despite being exhausted and out of breath.
"Now what are you smiling about?" the colonel said, turning to him.
Jonas beamed. "Blew up my first mothership," he said happily. Sam rolled her eyes but couldn't help returning his grin.
29 June 2003; SGC, Earth; 1200 hrs
"You're not injured, Mr. Jackson?" the general said as they stepped inside the office.
"No, sir," Daniel said. He hesitated for a moment, then amended the report Jack had quickly given between Teal'c's wounds and incoming Jaffa refugees. "The Eyes were destroyed, but we should consider returning to Erebus for other mineral and technology salvage. But if we're going to do it, it should be soon. I wouldn't be surprised if Ba'al had already been alerted."
"I'd rather wait until we have more intel from the Jaffa who were there, but I'll keep that in mind." The general sat down at his desk and gestured for Daniel to take a seat, too. "I must admit that it was good to see some of your enthusiasm back, in spite of the unfortunate circumstances. You did well. But you know what I have to ask now."
"I'm not staying on Abydos," Daniel said.
He was surprised when the words slipped out. They had won this time, but there would be a next time, and if he stayed on Abydos, he would spend the rest of his life wondering what he was missing. He could imagine little worse than being unable to act for the rest of his existence.
General Hammond seemed surprised, if not by his agreement, then at least by how quickly it had come. "I'm very glad to hear that," he said, "but, at the risk of convincing you otherwise, I want to emphasize that this is not a decision to take lightly. I don't want you to make a decision about your home that you'll regret once you've regained all your memories."
"I'm not taking it lightly," Daniel said, then, oddly, found himself smiling. "Have we had this conversation before, General?"
The general gave him a small smile in return. "Yes, we have, son. But this time, it'll be more permanent. Abydos is not far from Earth, but interstellar travel is new to us. It'll be a long time before ships can be used for anything not directly related to our own defense. Abydos will have no quick way of contacting us and no guarantee that we could reach them, much less help them, even with a long-range communicator--we've had the Prometheus for months, and it's already spent most of that time damaged or in enemy control."
"I understand that Earth has to be your first priority, sir."
"And if we want to make sure no Goa'uld chooses to look too hard at Abydos again, then communications should be kept to a minimum. There may be opportunities for you to return in the future, and travel from here to Abydos would certainly be more likely than the reverse. But without a Stargate, and with Anubis such a threat, that's not something I can guarantee, do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Daniel said, a hollow pit opening somewhere in his gut. He nodded.
"All right," the general said. He eyed Daniel for a moment longer. "That doesn't bother you?"
"I might remember something else," Daniel said. "Something urgent, or a...a clue about the Lost City. I'm always going to think of something, and I can't just... I'm not sure what's left for me there."
"Then I hope we'll be able to help you stay comfortably here, possibly even off-base," the general said. "This is your planet, too--you have a right to it."
"Thank you, but I think I'd rather stay on base for now," Daniel said. "Until I'm sure of what I know and what I don't."
"There would be a few snarls in letting you live off-base," the general admitted. "Nyan was only able to move away because he's not involved in this business anymore, and there are still people keeping an eye on him. You're too well-known to those of us who know about the Stargate, and it's hard enough keeping SGC life secret from the rest of the world even without being alien."
"I understand," Daniel said distractedly. "Sir--Nyan? Is he...?"
"He's about to start his second year of graduate school," the general said with a small smile. "He and Dr. David Jordan are both still in occasional contact with us--having them and a few others as contacts in the academic world helps our archaeologists solidify their cover."
"Wow," Daniel said, impressed and a little disappointed that he hadn't been there to see his friend off. "That's...that's great."
"He took your place on the team--I think it was partly in your memory," the general said.
Daniel grimaced. "I heard, and no disrespect intended, sir, but he must have hated it."
"I think he did. He handed SG-1 off to Jonas as soon as he could."
"Jonas seems to have taken to it."
"Yes, he has," the general said. Daniel hadn't meant that as anything but a comment, but he felt himself growing tense even so, as if a decision would be made concerning the two of them now. "But so did you, and I'm in no rush to separate any part of SG-1."
Relieved, Daniel nodded. "Thank you. Sir, I need to get ready. The teltak will be here in hours, and we still need to have our checkups..."
"Go ahead," the general said. "If you want my advice, take advantage of these next few days. You'll always have things you regret; don't let one of them be that you didn't spend enough time with your family while you had the chance."
5 July 2003; Kalima, Abydos; 1900 hrs
Jack had some funny ideas about marriages.
"What did he think was going to happen?" Skaara said that night, after they'd helped Seinah move her belongings into the place Skaara had made his home and most of the village had gone to bed.
Daniel shrugged. "His people often have a ceremony with flowers and promises, and an exchange of rings." Jack didn't seem to have noticed the bands that Skaara and Seinah had tied around each others' wrists; it was more practical than a loop around their fingers where it would easily fall off while working, Daniel thought.
Skaara leaned back against the support outside of his tent, where they sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the ground. "You're leaving in the morning," he said. Daniel looked at his hands and nodded. Skaara made a noise almost like a laugh. "You just came back."
"If I can come back from being dead, coming back from a few light years away shouldn't be too hard," Daniel pointed out, but he didn't look up as he said it.
"Sha'uri worries about you," Skaara said.
"Sha'uri worries," Daniel corrected.
Skaara made a face. "A few light years?" he said.
"Well...I don't know how many light years," Daniel admitted. "But it's not that far. A few hours away, Skaara--that's all."
Skaara pulled his knees up to his chest. "We used to have adventures together."
"We used to be children," Daniel reminded him. "You have a wife now."
"And you have...what?" Skaara said. "A duty? A war to fight?"
"I might still come back," Daniel insisted, because he wasn't completely sure yet what he did have on Earth, other than his friends and the war into which he had thoroughly entwined himself.
"The last time you said that, you came back to die," Skaara said.
Daniel opened his mouth to say that that wasn't fair--it wasn't as if he'd wanted to get himself killed--but he couldn't deny that it was still true. "I'm leaving soon," he finally said. "I don't know when I'll see you next. I don't want to fight with you."
With a sigh, Skaara reached across and looped an arm around Daniel's shoulders. "Do you remember everything now?" he asked. "I don't want you to go without remembering how you grew up."
"I remember enough," Daniel said, though there were very few things and people he did remember. Still, this world and its people had mattered to him, and that was something he knew in his core.
He reached into his pocket. "Tau'ri warriors sometimes wear these," Daniel said, holding out a survival bracelet with a button from his own fatigues sewn onto the end, like the one Sam wore as a reminder of those who had yet to return home and the ones who never would. "They don't take it off until everyone from their team returns."
Skaara accepted the tightly woven band of paracord and tugged on it experimentally. "This is strong rope," he commented.
"It is," Daniel said. "It's useful."
"Then I will wear it until you return," Skaara said, and fastened it around his wrist, even though they both knew it might be a case of if rather than when.
"We're leaving the long-range communicator. Do you remember how the power generator works and how to code a message?"
"I do," Skaara said. He sighed. "We have lived through exciting times, Dan'yel. That is enough for me. But you were always restless--this is what you were meant to do."
"Don't use it too often," Daniel made himself say, looking at the ground. "Save the generator for emergencies--if it becomes too cold one season, perhaps, I'm sure you and Sha'uri can find a way to use it to make heat. If you know how to replace the naquadah in the generator..."
"We will learn."
"And if you see a ship, hide in the caves and call us."
Skaara was quiet for a moment. "Tau'ri ships are different from Goa'uld, are they not?"
"Not all of Tau'ri is SGC, and some of them do not work with us. Even if it's not a Goa'uld ship, don't come out of here until they leave or someone you recognize finds you in Kalima."
"What should we teach our children?" Skaara said. "Do we lie and say there is nothing beyond Abydos, or that there is so much more and we fear to see it?"
Daniel shook his head. "It's not fear. Our people have to heal--not just from this attack, but from ten thousand years under the Goa'uld. Nothing stays hidden forever, and you should not allow it to. But next time, when another world meets Abydos..."
"We will be ready," Skaara said. "For good or bad."
"If anything important happens," Daniel promised, "we'll send a message. I will come back one day." He stood and helped his brother to his feet, then pushed him gently toward the house. "This is your life now, Skaara. Go to your wife. Be happy."
"You also deserve to be happy," Skaara said before he went in. "I don't want to receive a message that says you were killed."
"Nothing makes me happier than knowing Abydos is safe," Daniel said. Happiness was one thing; satisfaction was another. 'Satis,' after all, simply meant 'enough.' "Take care of our people," Daniel said. "That is enough."
6 July 2003; SGC, Earth; 2000 hrs
"...so we loaded up as much naquadah as we'd managed to strip away, and here we are," Daniel told Teal'c once they were back on base.
"Are you all right?" Teal'c asked. Rya'c and Bra'tac had already left again with Rak'nor. Teal'c himself was nearly healed now and was sitting in preparation for kelno'reem.
Daniel nodded, folding his legs under himself. "This is where I should be," he said. "I feel like I belong here, more than I've ever belonged anywhere else."
There were still moments of uncertainty--when he wondered if he was at the SGC because of the potential for novelty or because it had become 'normal'--but he had no doubt that this was what he was now. The one thing he did remember about Ascension that he had never told anyone--and probably would never tell--was the clear feeling that he was going to be torn apart by frustration, by the constant wish that what he had to do didn't clash with what he shouldn't do. At least here, at the SGC and as part of SG-1, he could live somewhat freer of that.
"I should be asking you if you're all right," Daniel said.
Teal'c tilted his head. "I believe," he said, "that this is the place where I, too, belong."
"Well, good," Daniel said. "But mostly I meant physically. You took, uh...quite a beating."
With a smile, Teal'c said, "Do not be concerned. I will be ready for our next mission."
"I missed this," Daniel confided. "Just sitting here and having someone to talk to."
"You cannot know how much I have also missed these times," Teal'c said quietly.
Daniel looked back down at the candle closest to his feet. "I wrote about a lot of things in my journals, but the parts about my parents' death aren't very thorough," he said, aware that Teal'c had completely stopped moving. "As it turns out, I don't remember that day anymore--that memory starts with waking up on Chulak--but I'm pretty sure that omission was intentional, and I can only think of one reason for it. We've never talked about that day in detail, have we?"
"We have not," Teal'c said. "I believe you deliberately chose not to do so--it may be that you yourself did not remember the day clearly enough."
"I think I did but didn't want to say it. It's true, though, isn't it? What happened to them, and...and your involvement?"
"Yes," Teal'c said. His gaze wavered for a bit, then fixed firmly on Daniel. "Whether or not I was the one who held the weapon that caused their deaths does not change my responsibility."
"Yeah, that conversation I remember," Daniel said. He looked up and found Teal'c looking uncertain. "I just wanted to know, Teal'c. It doesn't change anything."
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said carefully, "I killed the man who murdered my father."
Why did you not do the same? was the unspoken question, but, rather than point out the obvious--Daniel wasn't Teal'c and Teal'c wasn't Daniel--he said, "I know. I helped."
"I have never understood why you forgave me," Teal'c said.
In the beginning, it might have been a matter of necessity--he had latched onto whomever he could during a difficult time in a strange world. But even then, there had been more to it. Leaning forward, Daniel said, "I guess...it wasn't personal. You shot the people aiming weapons at you and your men; you weren't specifically trying to kill them. I knew the choices you'd made, and it's part of what makes you who you are. If I can accept everything else you've done in your life under Apophis, however terrible, then I have to accept that, too."
"You are under no such obligation," Teal'c said.
"We're a long way past obligation," Daniel said. The Goa'uld and their armies had killed his parents; Teal'c had been part of those forces but had turned, and now he was part of SG-1 and their team. There were things they all locked away in the back of their minds because they couldn't keep thinking about them if they wanted to survive, and if this was one of those things, it was one Daniel had carefully examined and then put firmly aside. The past was past; this was what mattered now.
"I see," Teal'c said. He finally returned the smile and bowed his head.
"One day," Daniel said, "when the System Lords really are defeated, will you..."
Teal'c waited for a while, then said, "What is it?"
"Never mind," Daniel said, shaking his head. "I was going to ask if you'd go back to your family or...but there's no point asking now, yeah? We don't know yet."
"Precisely," Teal'c said, nodding solemnly, then closed his eyes. Daniel decided to take that as a hint and scooted back until he was leaning against the edge of Teal'c's bed and opened his journal to write quietly until Teal'c had finished meditating.
"I won't," he said a minute later. "I don't think I'd go back if the time came to choose. Not if it meant staying there."
Teal'c didn't answer for a long time. Daniel had almost finished his final entry about Abydos when he heard, "I may return to my people when the time comes."
"Your people might still need you," Daniel answered, raising his eyes to find Teal'c watching him. "We understand. We hope it happens, in a way, because it'll mean the Jaffa rebellion is going somewhere."
"You told me once, in my dream, that I was the only one who could decide what my path would be," Teal'c said. Daniel straightened, knowing that this was something that had been very important to his friend. "It may be that we--all of us--will eventually choose different paths."
Daniel shrugged, a little uncomfortable. "I'm glad to share the journey for now, though."
Teal'c smiled. "You told me that, also."
"Oh. Well, at least I'm consistent." He skimmed over what he had written, looking for details he might have left out--every detail needed to be recorded now that memory might no longer serve--and closed the journal. "But if you rejoin the Jaffa, we'll visit."
He wondered when it was that Teal'c had started smiling more. He wished a little bit that he had been here to see it, but he liked how comfortably the expression now sat on Teal'c's face.
It wasn't until the second time Jack invited him to his house that Daniel found himself missing a home he didn't remember--missing, mostly, the memories he would never call back to mind.
Jack found him on the roof after midnight. "Hello," Jack said, pulling up a chair and lowering himself into it with a groan.
"Your knees are worse," Daniel commented. He'd rarely noticed before--it had simply been part of Jack. Daniel had spent his years at the SGC growing older, but he hadn't thought much about the fact that everyone else--like Jack--would be getting older, too.
"Had another surgery while you were gone," Jack told him, settling more comfortably into his seat. "Before Nyan, the ninth guy to try out for your spot screwed up off-world. He got a dart in the butt, though," he added, sounding like he took far too much pleasure in that fact.
"Ninth," Daniel echoed, shaking his head. He didn't say any more, though; he couldn't imagine running through a line of men and women who tried to replace Teal'c or Sam. "Are you okay?"
"Ah," Jack said, waving a hand. "No big deal. Knees. Back. You'd better enjoy it for the next ten years or so--it only goes downhill from there."
"You're not that old, Jack," Daniel said.
Jack shrugged. "I can still do the job. You out here for a reason?"
"Can we see Abydos's system from here?" Daniel asked, nodding toward the starlit sky.
"You asked me that before," Jack said.
Daniel remembered then that the answer had been 'no.' "Right." He folded his arms around himself, though it was a warm night. "I missed it. I wanted to go home so badly."
Jack nodded. He tilted his chair back on its back legs, balancing with his feet braced against the railing at the edge of the roof. The legs slipped and scraped a little against the ground before he shifted to balance the weight better. "Yeah, you did."
"That's dangerous, Jack, don't do that," Daniel said, rolling his eyes when Jack deliberately looked at him and tilted back another few inches before dropping the chair back on all fours.
"Which one of us was the kid, again?" Jack said.
"I've always known that was you," he answered easily. Sometimes, it was so easy. "You're the ones who've lived under the delusion that you were more mature than I was."
"Hey," Jack returned, "I'm not the one sitting on a roof at two in the morning." Why are you up? his tone asked, though he didn't move to ask it aloud.
"Did I used to dream about my parents a lot?" Daniel asked.
Jack didn't quite hide a wince before he said, "I don't know. You didn't talk about it. Not to me, anyway."
"Yeah." When he had sought out anyone after a nightmare, it had usually been Teal'c--they had lived two doors from each other, and Teal'c had offered simple quiet and an occasional piece of calming advice. "I hate not knowing whether I'm remembering their voices or just imagining it."
Jack drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair, blowing his cheeks out and looking awkward. "What do they say?" he finally asked.
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know. It's like they're too far away. You know, I remember how much I loved my home, but I don't feel like I want to go back."
Jack was silent for a while. "It seems like you've remembered most of it from reading your journals," he said.
Shaking his head in frustration, Daniel tried to explain, "It's like hearing it second-hand." Like a blurry, gray, duplicate picture when he had had the original in full color and motion. "It's just facts. There's nothing pulling me back."
"Is that why you were so tense while we were there?"
"I was starting to remember about Erebus," Daniel said. "I don't think it was anything the Others did specifically; it just felt like there was something I had to do, and it wasn't on Abydos." That was how it would always be. He would always feel like there was something he had to do somewhere else, and so Abydos could never be 'home' again, not really.
"Huh," Jack said. "You saved them from Anubis, though. You saved their planet for them."
Daniel made a face. There was still a part of him that remembered, fiercely, how much he'd wanted to keep it safe and how much he'd loved his hometown and the people who had made him their own. It was like a dull ache that had been soothed by distance but could never quite go away, because it would always seem like an unfinished story in his mind. "But not for me."
"You were never doing it for you," Jack said, perhaps the only reassurance possible.
Daniel nodded, his throat tight. "Yeah," he managed. "Guess that's all that matters."
"You okay?" Jack said.
"Great," Daniel lied.
"Sure," Jack said, and sat with him without speaking until he was ready to return to bed.
3 August 2003; SGC, Earth; 1000 hrs
Sam walked into her lab one morning to find Jonas frowning at her last naquadria conversion simulations. "Hey," she said, startling him into looking up. "So what do you think?"
"I think Daniel was right about the bomb test," Jonas said. "It would explain a lot, including why we've never found naquadria anywhere else."
She nodded. "I thought so. That opens up a new can of worms." And it meant that they might have a way of generating new naquadria, too, as long as they didn't go the way of Kelowna in the process. Sam saw piles of paper and lots of arguing about policy in her near future. "I want to put a pause on all naquadria research until we can decide exactly how we want to proceed," she added. "Do me a favor and tell anyone you know of who's working on it."
Jonas was quiet for a moment. "You know how they check my neural scans specifically for naquadria damage?" he said. "They should start doing that with the other scientists working on it. Most of them aren't field personnel, so I don't think they have the same medical requirements."
"Everyone here has been given those recommendations, and we're pretty careful whenever we work with naquadria--"
"Well, so were we," Jonas said, his tone as close to 'testy' as he ever got. "We weren't as advanced as you, but we understood radiation and shielding."
"That's true," she conceded. "All right, we'll have to revise protocols for that, too, but honestly, Jonas, we might have to phase out naquadria research altogether if we can't find a way to work around its instability. The risks are going to start outweighing the benefits."
"I think the crew of the Prometheus would agree with you there," Jonas said with a wry smile, and, just like that, any of his previous tension was gone.
A soft kick on the doorframe revealed Daniel, carrying what looked like a projector in his arms. "Am I interrupting?" he asked.
"Nah," Jonas said, straightening from his seat. "We were just talking about you, anyway."
Daniel raised his eyebrows as he stepped into the lab. "Really," he said.
"More like talking about your naquadria tip," Sam corrected. "We think it pans out. Now, are you going to tell us what that--wait, is that the Tok'ra holographic projector Martouf and Dr. Lee were messing with?"
"Yeah; they managed to get it to interface with the Tok'ra memory recall device," Daniel said. He set it down on a clear area of bench space. "I'm supposed to give it to you to see what you want to do with it."
"It interfaces with the what?" Jonas said.
Sam eyed the projector dubiously. "It's a little disk you attach here," she said, pointing to her temple. "It stimulates memory centers to enhance recall. I've used one on a Tok'ra mission before, but I'm pretty sure the only one we have is the one we usually use with the zatarc detector. We regularly checked all our personnel for zatarc programming--"
"Right, during the period after the Tok'ra treaty," Jonas remembered, nodding.
"--but we discontinued it after about a year when it seemed likely that the Goa'uld responsible for the technology had been killed by Martouf on his last mission for the Tok'ra."
"The disk we used for that still works as a memory enhancer when it's set correctly," Daniel told her. "Janet was there the whole time, so it was safe."
"You used it? I should've been there to monitor in case something went wrong," she said, letting some rebuke into her tone. "Bill was the last one fiddling with this, and you know how he is with safety precautions."
"Well, Martouf had finished most of the fiddling before we Ascended," Daniel said. "And some of my memories are private. Jack and Teal'c weren't there, either; only Janet." Before she could say anything else, he added, "As it turned out, we managed to stay mostly on less private thoughts, so if you're interested in seeing how the Goa'uld holographically project memories..."
"So that's really possible?" Sam said, more interested now. Jonas tilted his head, examining the projector. "Memories aren't usually straightforward or that sequential, are they?" Although she supposed it was possible that that was one of the recall device's functions: to make a collection of thoughts linear enough to be visualized on a screen.
Daniel shrugged. "I just spent an hour hooked up to this thing, and it seems to have worked." He tapped his temple where a tiny mark showed that he'd just had a disk attached to his head. "It was modified from a projector that was meant to be used as a recording device, too, and since no one has figured out how to erase its history except by overwriting it, you can probably play back what we saw this morning."
She looked up sharply and automatically glanced around to verify that they were the only ones in the room. "You don't mind? What's the recording of?"
"Nothing much," he said, not quite casual. "Abydos, mostly. It took a while to figure out how to focus on the right memories, though, so it skips around a bit." Sam wasn't sure what her face looked like, but it must have been quite excited, because Daniel smiled and said, "Like I said, you can look if you want. I thought you'd be interested."
Eager to see how it worked, Sam powered it on.
There was a blurry scene that made little sense until she realized that they were watching it from the point of view of someone sitting on a man's shoulders. A boy who looked like a younger version of Skaara ran ahead of them, tugging on a woman's hand.
"That's my mother and Skaara," Daniel said. "We were walking back. I'm sitting on my father."
"Aw," Sam said before she could stop herself. Suddenly, though, Skaara and Claire Jackson disappeared. "What is that?" she said, pointing at what looked like a black screen. Even as they watched, the darkness seemed to get nearer and nearer until the memory stopped altogether. "That black..."
"That's my village," Daniel said, watching along with them. "That's what it always looks like whenever I dream about it now. I can't remember what happens next in that memory." Sam grimaced, some of the excitement at the technology dying away as she realized what Daniel had been trying to do with this little experiment.
"So it's really..." she started, then stopped when another memory started.
This one was of the embarkation room, with Ferretti's original team and Daniel on the ramp--this must have been their first trip back to Abydos--but as soon as the memory reached the event horizon, it ended.
The next one showed a terrified young Daniel being chased through the desert sand by a mastadge with a broken harness, with Skaara chasing after them both, only to be swallowed up by the same blackness as they reached what should have been the naquadah mines. And then--
"Well," Daniel said casually as he switched the projector off. "That's that. There were a few others that got overwritten. I was hoping a more objective look would help, but it's really just not there anymore. You can play with the projector though."
"Do you want to keep experimenting with it?" Sam offered, examining the projector again. "I can help--maybe if we adjust some parameters, you'd be able to access more memories."
"No," Daniel said.
She frowned. "You don't...even want to try again?"
"It's gone," he said, nodding at the projector. "That's it. Trying again isn't going to help--at some point, it's just denial and a waste of time."
"What about something else? You didn't look for the lost city or anything?" Jonas said.
"I started to," Daniel said. "Nothing happened except a headache."
"Well, maybe," Sam said again, "if we adjust some--"
"And even if I do remember all the secrets of the Ascended Ancients, I'm not sure any of us should know," Daniel said.
Sam raised her eyebrows. "Well, that's a change," she said cautiously. "You seemed to want to remember it before."
"That was before I remembered what happened when Shifu came here," Daniel pointed out.
"The Harsesis?" Jonas said, looking confused--he only knew what little the reports said about Shifu. "I thought nothing ever came of that incident."
"Exactly," Daniel said.
"We're not asking you to divulge everything," she tried. Daniel definitely remembered something about his time on the higher planes--he had to, if he'd remembered Erebus, and facts about naquadria and whatever had happened between him and Teal'c and the colonel during that time. "You could just pick and choose the information that's important, with the help of the memory recall device."
"That's what we told Shifu," Daniel said firmly. "I found out I was wrong then, and I'm not going to risk trying that device any more. Besides, if I remember too much, even without telling everyone else, who's to say I won't become the next Anubis?"
Jonas laughed, thinking it was a joke, then trailed off. "You're serious?" he said uncertainly.
Daniel looked at him. "I will not consent to further experimentation with a memory enhancer concerning memories I lost as a result of Descension," he said. "So. 'Bye." He nodded to them and left the lab.
"What happened when Shifu was here?" Jonas asked her. "I'm missing something."
"It's...a long story," Sam hedged, though she felt like something was still being held back. "But maybe he's right. Remember that fight on Abydos? Imagine that kind of power, but more, and letting the knowledge of how to use it fall into the NID's hands, or even our own hands..."
"Too much potential for abuse?" he said, not quite sounding convinced. "Okay. If you...say so."
"Jonas, do you mind finishing this up on your own?" she asked, pointing at the simulation displayed on her computer screen. "I need to..." She gestured vaguely in the direction Daniel had gone. "I'm sorry. I know this is probably sort of weird to you--"
"No, sure, of course," Jonas said. "I've gotten used to weird."
"Mackenzie's given me approval to rejoin SG-1 fulltime," Daniel said when she appeared at his office door. "A lot of what I don't remember, I still know. Either I never lost the factual knowledge, or I've just done a good job studying after my Descension. Probably a bit of both."
Sam raised her eyebrows. "I don't think Mackenzie's ever signed off on you before," she said, "not without an argument."
Daniel shrugged. "Something about being tortured to death and killing an army on the way down seems to have made people stop thinking of me as a kid. It's either that or the Ascension."
She couldn't tell if he was trying to provoke her, because this was also his style of sharp joking--although it was often the same thing. She nodded and perched on the edge of Jonas's desk. "They made you talk to Mackenzie?" she asked.
"It was my idea," he said.
Sam blinked. "It was what? You never would've, before, not without being ordered to."
"He's the one who suggested using the memory recall device to try to remember about Abydos."
Oh. Mackenzie was an expert in psychiatric neuroimaging. Maybe projection of memories fell under that category, too. "What's he say about the results?"
"That I respond to it like someone with irreversible brain damage," Daniel said. "My semantic memory about Abydonian life is relatively intact; it's just episodic memories that are gone, which is why they don't show up on the projector--you can't watch a scene play out if all you have are isolated facts out of context."
Sam tried not to wince. There weren't many phrases that managed to frighten her more than 'brain damage.' "Are you okay?"
"You really don't mind not thinking about what might be left in your brain?"
Daniel took off his already-clean glasses and wiped them carefully with his shirt. "It's not like I don't think about it," he said. "I remembered Erebus while meditating, and I won't stop trying the same way. But not with a memory probe. Moral risk aside, if the Others did this, who knows if they would step in to stop me from using Goa'uld tech to artificially seek out memories?"
Sam decided she didn't like the Others very much right now, except maybe Orlin and Martouf if they counted as Others. "That's a good point," she allowed. "But you know you can talk to us, too, right, if anything's going on?"
Exasperated, he insisted, "Sam, nothing's going on! I'm sorry if I'm not the--" He stopped. Not the same, he'd almost said. She'd been thinking it lately; they all had. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing--well, I...just..." Sam said, not completely sure how to articulate it. Daniel raised his eyebrows. "When I said you wouldn't have gone to Mackenzie before, I didn't mean anything by it. I was just worried."
"I know," he said.
"I won't bring it up again, then," she said.
Daniel chewed his lip. "Look, uh, Sam..." He stopped, then started again. "Am I...different?"
Swallowing hard--it wasn't like she hadn't been thinking it--she said, "You don't need to be comparing yourself to what people are saying. There's no question that you're who you are."
He still looked a bit unhappy and defensive on top of it. "So what's wrong?"
Sam managed a smile. "Nothing. I just have a lot of questions left."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Nothing you need to worry about."
"It's my head, Sam, and you've been annoyed about something for the last few weeks, so..."
"I'm not annoyed," she protested. He raised his eyebrows, looking unconvinced. "I just really...want you to be okay," she said, sounding silly to herself.
"I am," he said.
She bit her lip. "If you need--"
"I know," he said. He finally gave her a smile. "Really. I do."
"You are different, you know," she said, and his smile started to fade.
"People change," he said.
"I saw you wailing on a punching bag yesterday," Sam said, straightening a pile of paper on Jonas's desk. "On your own--not with Teal'c or Colonel O'Neill or anything. It was strange. Not like you." When he'd been younger, she might not have been surprised to see him go to the gym to punch things if he was upset, because young men could be hotheaded and Daniel had been quick to action, except that he hadn't been like that; he would have gone to fume in the library instead. Yesterday had been different--a methodical, calm workout, nothing that would leave unnecessarily bruised knuckles or strained muscles. As if it were normal, except it wasn't.
Daniel shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. "Physical requirements were upped sometime in the last year."
"It's been a long time since you've had any worries about passing physical requirements."
"Well, I figured," he tried again. "You know. Jonas and I are both staying on SG-1, right?"
"Yeah," Sam said. Aside from avoiding the tricky question of how to split up parts of a team like SG-1, there were advantages and practically no downsides--an extra man on a team their size was a twenty-five percent increase in numbers, not to mention the extra brains.
"But we're still a combat team, at least sometimes. I don't want you and Jack and Teal'c having to look back all the time to make sure I'm keeping up."
"We don't do that--" She frowned. "Because we need to keep an eye on Jonas, you mean. Look, he is combat-ready. No one is on SG-1 if he needs to be babysat."
"Sam," Daniel said. "Jonas said he was going to start bringing a live handgun for the first time next mission, because he usually brings a zat or an intar. Erebus was an exception. He isn't even as good at hand-to-hand or marksmanship as I am, and I'm worse than the rest of you."
It felt uncomfortable to be defending Daniel's replacement to Daniel, but Sam said, "Yeah, but you need to think about who that's in comparison to. You had years; he's had months."
"I'm not saying he's not good enough. It's just that we now have three science or culture specialists on a five-man team, and I think it'll work, but battles aren't going to avoid us. Jonas is good at a lot of things, but until he stops hesitating before he throws a punch..."
"You don't have to protect him," she said, but she understood it, too. They'd all felt that way about Daniel when he'd first joined. Daniel had been too quick to jump in rather than too hesitant, as Jonas sometimes was, but everyone's learning curve was different. "And it's not like he's taken your place and you need to find a new one. You don't have to worry about that."
"No, I know," he said. "We have our strengths, that's all--"
"And since when have you wanted to count fighting among one of yours?" she said.
"This isn't about what we want," Daniel said. "It's what we need as an entire team and...and what we are. Did you forget that my dying act was a botched assassination attempt that I turned into a massacre, in which Selmak and Martouf became collateral damage?"
Taken aback at the choice of phrasing--and more than a little hurt, because Daniel always knew the harshest way to lash out--Sam found herself saying, "I'm not the one whose memories need work," and then wanted to shrivel up and take it back.
Daniel started to stand up, then stopped and looked away instead. "I'm...I'm sorry. Sam. I shouldn't've said that."
Sam rubbed her forehead and moved toward the door to push it shut. "God. Me neither. You're the one who died. I'm not the one it happened to," she said, leaning back against the door.
"Sure you are," Daniel said quietly. "I bet it lasted longer for you than it did for me."
A lump appeared in her throat. "I'd rather not think too hard about how long it did last for you," she said, remembering the flashes of broken and burnt skin she'd seen behind an infirmary curtain. Daniel chewed on his lip but didn't flinch or move toward her; Sam wished she weren't constantly comparing this Daniel to the one from before. She stepped away from the door, pulled another chair closer to him, and sat. "Is that what all of this is about?" she asked. "You think you need to be ready for some 'next time?'"
"It was just a punching bag," he said. "You've established a balance, the three of you and Jonas, and I want to make sure I'm adding to it instead of tipping it one way or another. You don't need two junior teammates on SG-1."
"Anyone who survives what you did in your first couple of years is pretty damn experienced," she said. "And Jonas might be relatively new, but he isn't naïve."
"After Kelowna, and...and what Nirrti did to him?" he said. "Of course not."
"You don't need to shield him from this life, and you can't, anyway. I know--we tried with you."
"I know. But." Daniel folded his hands and leaned forward. "Put it this way. I've been thinking. How did you feel after the summit where I was supposed to kill the System Lords?"
"I...cannot believe you just asked me that," Sam said.
"Not about me or Martouf or your father. About the mission."
"Missions go wrong," she said, not sure where this was leading. "It happens."
He shook his head. "Do you remember when we first found Cimmeria? We were so excited at the possibility that someone else might be out there who could fight the Goa'uld. This last time, we had months of preparation, a lot of allies, years of training, a perfect opportunity...we had tangible reason to believe we could actually bring about the end of the war, and it was just another mission. We hoped, obviously, but when it went wrong, and the System Lords escaped, and Anubis rose, and half the Tok'ra were slaughtered...was anyone even surprised?"
Not many, she didn't have to tell him. Grieving, maybe, for a dozen reasons, but not surprised--more resigned. "You were crushed when Cimmeria didn't live up to what we'd hoped," she reminded him. "I remember you hiding in my office after that. You can only live on that roller coaster for so long."
"But why?" he insisted. "Sam, we walk through wormholes. To other planets across the galaxy."
Sam had to smile and conceded, "Well, yeah. I guess that's true."
"The point is, we don't even think about it anymore, good or bad. Jonas still thinks everything's amazing, and...and why shouldn't he? When did all of that become just routine for us? Maybe we've forgotten what it was like at first, and we need to remember it better."
"I miss this," she blurted. Sometimes, she didn't recognize him anymore--the kid she'd let into her lab had turned into someone else, as kids were wont to do--and sometimes, he was exactly the same person who had literally been dragged into this world and had taken it by storm with crazy ideas and passion for what he thought was right. "We missed it, when you were gone. You were part of what we all had in common, you know, even when you were little. And then, afterward, we got tired."
"Maybe you needed a Jonas Quinn," he said, not quite teasing.
"We wanted you," she said tightly. "Not that he...but it wasn't the same."
"Well, you've got us both now," Daniel said. "It'll be fun. Jonas and I have a bet on how long it takes for the two of us to make Jack say 'for crying out loud' the next time we find ruins of an Ancient city. He says ten minutes, but he underestimates me." She laughed. "Maybe we need someone who still always thinks it's all new and exciting at the end of the day. And...and maybe I'd like him to stay that way."
Sam had been that person, once. Teal'c had grown up around Stargates; the colonel had been too cynical at the start of the SGC. But she'd done her share of gawking in wonder, and by the time the shine had begun to wear off, Daniel had jumped onboard and taken over that role. He had always argued that their intentions and attitudes were important, not just their results, and all morality aside, maybe it was what kept them fresh and sane, too.
"You mean you don't want him to have to, oh, say, infiltrate a Goa'uld conference and try to murder the people inside," Sam said.
"You know what I realized during that summit?" Daniel said. "I thought it was all the same--you want someone dead, you kill him. It shouldn't matter how. If guards had been there, it would have almost been easier. But it's not the same when you're lying, and they're sitting, unarmed, talking, and you just have to push a button but you're in no immediate danger... I mean, I would've done it, but it was...different."
"Yeah," she managed.
"What do you think that is?" he asked, sounding honestly, coldly curious. "I don't think it's cowardice. Morality? Why is the morality barrier higher for one case than for another?"
"I don't know." She'd never been in that exact situation before, but she'd had to lie on missions. She didn't like to think too much about Fifth, the Replicator they'd tricked and manipulated, who hadn't been a threat yet and had been an innocent. What had made them think it was okay to send Daniel to spy on and kill the Goa'uld, knowing that innocents would be collateral damage?
"I think it's because the idea of killing is repulsive to us on some level," he told her, as if they were debating the merits of this microscope versus that one. "Immediate personal danger makes the act seem less unacceptable."
"Daniel," she said.
"The funny thing is that I argued as hard as anyone for us to take the mission," he added thoughtfully. "I didn't understand that it would be different. It made sense at the time. Logical."
"Daniel," Sam said.
Daniel looked down at his desk. "Do you want that to be Jonas next time?" he asked.
"Of course not," she said stiffly. "I didn't want it to be you, either."
Finally jumping on the conversation, she said, "And I remember we sent you to kill the most powerful of our enemies without backup and then let you die saving us."
"Sam," he sighed. "That wasn't... You know I'd do it all again. Exactly the same, except faster. I'm...sure Selmak would have agreed. Any of us would've done it."
She ignored that. "You know what else I remember about you?"
He didn't answer, so she leaned closer to him.
"I remember how much it hurt you when you couldn't do anything to help people," she said. He stared intently at his desk. "I remember you knelt to Apophis to pray for his host, because you thought it was right, while I stood by and watched because I wouldn't even have considered doing it."
"You always had the worst Egyptian accent of all of us," he quipped.
"You know that's not what I mean. You spent so long dreaming of killing him, and you still picked mercy. Shifu and Oma chose you, Daniel. That means something. You gave Martouf peace--you gave me, Lantash, and my dad a bit of peace. That's the person I remember. Maybe...maybe we made you into someone who can be a spy and an assassin, but that's not who you were. There was a stretch of time when I thought it was going to tear you apart, when you kept having bad missions--you just had to do something to help, and I could see what it did to you every time you couldn't. We needed that on our side. You gave us that."
"That was a bad year," he said, smiling faintly the way only people like them would smile at the thought of bad times. Then he smiled a little wider. "I'm probably not even thinking of the same year that you are."
Sam found herself smiling back. "We don't exactly have good years around here."
"Good days," he offered. "Even stretches of them, on occasion."
"Yeah," she laughed, glad to see him joking, even though there was nothing amusing about it. "I'm just saying, you're a good person. You try to do good things."
"I know that."
"But it not enough," he said, his expression saying that he knew she knew it, too.
"If it ever becomes enough, you've already lost," she told him. "That's you, too. So don't ever think we need you to be anyone but yourself. You don't have to become a...a miniature Teal'c just because we have another civilian with us now. You're not just a role on the team."
"I know," he said. "But sometimes I am. No, Sam, that's just--SG-1 is...it's who I am, too."
"Yeah," she said. "I guess it is." And, when it came down to it, it was who the rest of them were, too. "Just remember what that means. We're SG-1--we explore."
"I did notice that. I've done a bit of exploring in my time."
"So are you done?"
Daniel became very still. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Sam took a breath and said, "You just seem...awfully ready to concede things lately. The four Eyes, strategic decisions, your memories of about a billion things...and you have good reasons, I know, but you were even willing to give up your place on the team. We asked the general to let all of us stay together--even Jonas spoke up for you, because you didn't."
"I'm not allowed just to be happy where I am?" he said quietly. "Not being pulled somewhere else for once, looking for something I'll probably never find?"
A few years ago, she would have wanted nothing more than to let him find peace. Months ago, she wouldn't have cared how he was, as long as he came back. Now, she would rather that he take the hard way rather than the easy, if only because he was losing an important part of being himself if he didn't. "I don't think you're even looking for anything right now, except maybe for a fight where you can do something," she said. "And I think you need more than that."
"I have SG-1," he said, and until she'd heard him say that, she would never have imagined that that could ever be the easy way out for anyone. What was an insane adventure for most people was a familiar, ordinary lifestyle for him. "Sam, that's all I have right now."
She reached out to squeeze his arm. "And we can be that for you," she said, "for now. But you've got to find something, or we're going to lose you again. I want Daniel Jackson at my back, not just some fifth member of SG-1, no matter how good he is at his job."
Daniel touched his bare wrist, where he had once worn a bracelet from Skaara to remind him of his home. He had lost it years ago, but the motion was still familiar, and, for a moment, Sam could still see the fourteen-year-old boy she'd shepherded into her lab with a fountain pen and a notebook and a book about constellations. "I'm not even whole, Sam," he said. "I'm missing half of my life."
"The part that matters is still here," she said firmly. "You can't stop, and you can't just...go with the flow, even if it makes things easier. That's not you." She'd seen him fired up over Erebus, and she knew that all it would take was a whiff of an exciting new project to perk his interest in it, but those were just dots without a line to connect them. Daniel's mind went to dangerous places with perilous schemes when there wasn't something pulling him back into line.
"I'm trying," he said. "I probably remember everything I'm going to, but I can't tell when I've gone too far or not far enough. It's...it's..."
"I know," she said. "You're not the same as you were before, and it might take time to find where you stand and where you want to stand. We're gonna need time. But you're the one who made me look at things from the other side and push past all the things I thought were boundaries. I'm not going to let you settle for 'enough.' Ever. I just want you to know that."
He caught her hand on his arm and nodded. "Okay," he said, pulling back. Before she could say anything else, he said, "I never asked you about your father."
Sam paused, still leaning on his desk with an elbow. "Uh. You know he's alive. Right?"
"No--yeah," he said, shaking his head. "I know. There are just so many people I should or want to ask about, and I didn't think of him until we were experimenting with that--"
"Oh, he's the one who brought that holographic projector here in the first place," Sam remembered, starting to smile. What was it about time that made the most complicated things in the past seem so much simpler than the present? "What was that--four years ago?"
"Something like that," Daniel said, tentatively smiling back. "Just before you took out Seth."
"We," she corrected. "Definitely a team effort on that one."
He shrugged. "If the ribbon device fits," he said. She snorted and backhanded his arm lightly. Time could also make the frightening things seem less so. "How is he these days?"
Sam almost said, 'good,' as the easiest generic response, then said honestly, "We don't see him much, but when we do, he's pretty stressed. There's always been tension between us and the Tok'ra, and it's starting to show within their ranks, too. It probably doesn't help that it's...you know, Dad and Lantash."
Daniel grimaced. "Not exactly a calming combination," he agreed, but his eyes stayed fixed on hers. "But I wasn't talking about politics."
Sometimes, when she closed her eyes to go to sleep, she could still see the blinding, captivating light of Ascension. She'd seen it too many times--first Oma, then Shifu, then Orlin and Daniel and Martouf--and the sight that had awed her at first had become an incomprehensible mix of relief and despair. "It was hard on him," she said, meaning not just the political tension but Martouf and Selmak.
"What about you?" Daniel said.
"Wasn't easy," she admitted, the way she could never say to the colonel, because he was her superior, or to Jonas, because he still looked up to her sometimes. "But I wasn't alone."
He folded his arms around himself. "I wish I'd been here," he said, almost like an apology.
"Me, too," Sam agreed, meaning, it's okay.
"I haven't found a real project yet," he said abruptly. "If you want to play around with the projector sometime, I can help you get started. Or if you've got unidentified devices lying around, I can look for their controls and you can make them work better. If you want."
It wasn't until she heard that that she realized she had been waiting to hear it for a long time. She and Daniel drilled together with weapons, but what she really loved was fiddling with technology beside him. "Yeah," she said eagerly. "Wanna go now?"
"Sure," he said.
On the way, he asked, "How's Cassie?"
Given what he'd said about the people he kept remembering to ask about--the loose ends he'd left behind--she said, "C'mon, let's get to the lab and I'll fill you in. We've got a lot to catch up on."
5 August 2003; SGC, Earth; 2300 hrs
"Hey," Jonas said when he stopped by the office and found Daniel at the fish tank. "You about done for the night?"
Daniel looked up as if surprised and held up the can in his hand. "Just feeding the fish," he said. "What were you doing?"
"Late briefing," Jonas said, dropping onto their couch with an oof. "There was a routine first-contact mission we took a few months ago--we're sending in a new team and they needed a rundown of customs, language, courtesies, history..."
"Is something going on there?" Daniel asked.
"SG-14's trying to start up relations," Jonas said. "You know the drill. Nothing big. I'm all done now, though; the rest is out of our hands."
Jonas watched as he put the fish food down carefully and wandered toward the coffeepot. There was a sort of care to everything Daniel did these days that was different from the reflexive grace of muscle-memory that he had carried just after Vis Uban--it wasn't clumsiness, exactly, but rather a hyperawareness of where his limbs were, as if he needed an extra moment to find his balance and make sure he wouldn't step too hard or too lightly on something. Maybe that was just the way he was--everything about him, Jonas found, from his words in a speech to his bullets at the shoot range, was studied and well-aimed.
"I've never kept fish before," Daniel said absently. "They're much easier than human babies."
Jonas couldn't help laughing at the image. It was almost impossible to imagine this Daniel Jackson carrying the Harsesis infant around base with him, though records and talk said that it had happened once upon a time. "Yeah, well, I considered keeping a couple of babies in a tank on your desk, but then I thought, 'fish would be easier to feed.'"
Shaking his head, Daniel held out a clean mug, offering, "Want some?"
"I don't know how you can drink that at"--Jonas looked back to see the clock--"eleven at night."
Daniel shrugged and poured his own cup before sitting back down. "It relaxes me."
"Because that's what stimulants do," Jonas said.
"I'm studying. Some of us actually need to read things more than once to remember them," he pointed out. Jonas rolled his eyes but didn't dispute the point--Daniel could write dictionaries and grammars from scratch like no one else could, but Jonas could memorize them faster. He couldn't wait until they got a chance to work out a puzzle together. "Hey, you can go to bed--I can get the last of your paperwork for the day started, and you can finish it in the morning."
"What about you?" Jonas said, tempted to call it a day. "Still catching up on reading?"
"Mm-hm," Daniel said. He took a sip of coffee and added casually, "I never realized how many people I never knew, until I looked up the current teams' compositions and couldn't tell who was newly recruited and who'd been killed in action during the last year."
"You know," Jonas said, leaning back and not much fazed by this kind of thing anymore, since he suspected it was partly just Daniel's way--conscious or not--of testing people, "you're kind of creepy sometimes."
"You know," Daniel answered, not stopping his reading, "you're kind of cheerful sometimes."
"I try my best," Jonas said, grinning when Daniel looked up without raising his head, his eyes peeking out over the tops of his glasses. There was a trick to dealing with Daniel, he'd found--it had a lot to do with understanding what was a joke and what was deadly serious, because both could be equally disturbing or amusing and be said exactly the same way, but how one answered determined how much respect one received in return. Jonas suspected he was lucky they'd met and become tentative friends before Daniel had remembered to be cynical and generally disconcerting. "So...we've got a mission coming up. Excited?"
"Ecstatic," Daniel deadpanned, though Jonas thought his lips might be twitching. "This one's... P3X-289? Or am I thinking of another one?" He opened a folder partway, tilting his head to see the top page.
"No, that's the one. It's got a toxic atmosphere," Jonas prodded. "And a dome."
Daniel snorted and let the folder fall closed. "Are you seriously excited about that?"
"Well, not the toxic part. Still. This one looks interesting."
"Do you want to take point if we meet people inside that dome?" Daniel asked.
"Oh...you have more experience..." Jonas started. "I mean, it's up to you. Whatever you think best."
Daniel nodded. "We'll fall into place when the time comes," he said, seemingly unconcerned. "If you recognize the language, you talk; if I figure it out first, I'll talk. I'm sure it'll be fine."
Jonas nodded again, a little relieved. "You really don't mind my sticking around?"
"You have at least as much right to the team as I do. I should be asking you if you mind me."
"No, of course not," Jonas said. "I always wanted to meet you. Not that I thought I ever would." Daniel gave him a polite but very distant smile and looked back down at his notes. "And do you know how hard it is to be SG-1 without someone actually good at diplomacy?"
Still reading something, Daniel said, "My idea of diplomacy was blurting things and hoping that aliens liked me enough to go along with it. I only looked diplomatic next to Jack. You worked as a government representative to your people and to outsiders. You're the one with training."
"Uh-uh," Jonas said, shaking his head. "No, see, but that's not enough. You know what I was to them?"
Finally, Daniel looked up, his expression wary, "I shouldn't judge just from reports..."
"Go ahead," Jonas said. "You can say it."
"You were their pawn," Daniel said, turning his full attention to Jonas for the first time tonight. "You trusted them, so they trusted you to do what they wanted."
Jonas dropped his eyes. "I don't even know which you mean by 'they'--"
"It is possible to be played by elements of both sides, Jonas," Daniel said.
"Thanks--that's encouraging," Jonas said. He flopped back against the couch again, spreading his arms across the back.
Daniel didn't apologize for being blunt. "People want to trust you," he said instead. "I read the Pangara reports. It's important to have someone about whom the other side isn't immediately suspicious, and it's good not to be someone about whom others should be suspicious."
"I thought that was your job," Jonas said, only half-joking.
"It depends on who the other side are," Daniel said, and considering how many of their major enemies knew his face, that was a good point. "The point is, it's not a bad quality."
"Look where it got me back home," Jonas said. "Being likeable isn't the same as being a good diplomat--knowing when to push and when to pull back, especially in new and unknown territory, that's what matters." Jonas was good at making friends; Daniel wasn't, as it turned out, but sometimes one had to be a little harsh and not just firm, and that was the one thing Jonas had tended to shy away from on Kelowna. His forte was in talking to people and encouraging them to talk back; Daniel had experience in challenging rules and closing deals.
"It's not some straightforward equation to be balanced," Daniel said.
"But I think I stand too far on one side of that balance sometimes," Jonas confided.
Daniel was silent for a while, considering, then admitted, "I don't know where I stand on it; I'm not really sure of a lot just now. But we never know off-world. You notice things about people that others don't; that's a good place to start if you want to know whom to trust."
"Hey, if we're talking about gaining trust, speak for yourself--you've pulled at least as many undercover SG missions as anyone else."
"And if we need to gain people's trust to get close enough to poison them, I might be an asset. I'd like to think that's not the end goal of most of our diplomatic missions."
Jonas grimaced at the edge he heard in the words. "Come on," he said. "I've heard about you, and I've read everything you've negotiated for Earth. It's not just undercover stuff--"
Daniel sighed and put down his pen. "Jonas, listen, this isn't a competition. You've studied my work, and now I'm studying something you finished and memorized this morning over breakfast. You pull and I'll push, yeah? You can...help Sam solve some technological problem and the rest of us will cover you, or Jack and I can lean hard on a foreign official and rely on you to keep an eye on public opinion. That's what this is--do your part, and we'll be there for the rest."
"Yeah," Jonas said, looking at his feet.
"Yeah," he said again. "Okay." When he looked up, Daniel had pulled one foot onto his chair and was hugging his knee to his chest. Jonas grinned. "Very inspirational."
Daniel rolled his eyes, but, before he could squeeze out a smile, he said, "Speaking of your diplomatic training, what exactly is the situation with Madrona now?"
Jonas managed to keep his expression in place and said, "No one's started a civil war, which is a good sign. The surviving Kelownans, Tiranians, and Andari have merged into a single country that they're calling Langara. With some help from the Madronans' climate control and some aid from us via SG-9, they're rebuilding."
"It must be hard."
"Yeah, going from technology almost as advanced as Earth's to the bare bones of something resembling infrastructure--"
"I wasn't talking about them," Daniel interrupted. "You don't go with SG-9 when they check up on Langara, do you?"
Jonas shrugged. "They don't want me there. Which is probably, well, a good thing, since there might be some bloodshed if SG-1 went instead. The colonel might murder someone."
"Yeah, Jack has this irrational lack of tolerance for blatant treachery," Daniel said flatly.
Jonas felt his eyebrows creeping upward in surprise. He knew what the rest of SG-1 felt about Kelowna--there wasn't a lot of comfort to be found in that whole mess, but his team's support helped--but hadn't realized that Daniel felt the same way. Then again, Daniel spat out random facts from his Ascension once in a while, usually without noticing it, including the information about naquadria, so maybe there was some unconscious hostility left behind there, too.
Besides, the one thing about the real live Daniel Jackson that didn't seem to match up to the rumors was that spark of passion and indignation about injustice that he was reputed to carry around. Jonas hadn't really seen that, aside from the brief flurry of action just when he'd remembered about Rya'c and Bra'tac on Erebus. But maybe that spark was still there, just as keen but quieter, not quite as brash as the stories about the teenaged prodigy seemed to imply.
"I'm pretty sure he'd rather we left your people to rot," Daniel was saying. "Something about helping people who are actively holding an unjustified grudge against one of ours. Luckily, General Hammond thinks withholding all humanitarian aid would be cruel and unfair to the majority of the people who didn't even know there was such a thing as a naquadria bomb."
"I get it!" Jonas snapped. "I hate it. What do you want me to say?"
Daniel set his chin on his knee and continued watching him. "So you do get angry. I was starting to wonder."
Jonas deflated. He'd found early in his career that being vocally angry was both uncomfortable and unproductive, but he supposed Daniel, who seemed to seek out confrontation deliberately, probably had a different view of the matter. "I don't think about home much," he said. "What's the point, you know?"
"I know," Daniel said, this time with a hint of sympathy in his tone, and of course he would know a bit of what it was like, even if their situations were completely different. "I am very sorry about what happened. Do you miss people from Kelowna?"
"Not the ministers," Jonas said wryly. "But I had friends there. I know what you're thinking--I was wrong about the project and the people I was working for, so maybe I'm wrong about--"
"That's not what I was thinking," Daniel said. "I'm sure your true friends knew you weren't a traitor. Whether they would to speak against your government on your behalf..."
"Yeah," Jonas said. He shook his head. "I don't know that I would have spoken up."
Daniel tilted his head. "It's a difficult situation," he said tactfully, because lack of formal training didn't mean he hadn't learned how to be diplomatic once in a while. "But some people are worth being trusted, and for the ones who aren't..." He raised his eyebrows. "The team won't let you down. I think you know that by now."
Jonas let himself smile, grateful for the sentiment. "I think I do." A thought struck him while he searched for a less uncomfortable topic, and he leaned forward conspiratorially. "Hey, so, now that we're teammates, we've gotta have each others' backs, right?"
"Yeah," Daniel drawled. "I think I just said that. Why, what do you want?"
"Do you know Jacquie Rush very well?"
For a while, Daniel didn't answer. Then he blinked and said, "Who?"
"You know," Jonas said. He looked over his shoulder, but not many people were wandering around at the hour, and certainly not Jacquie. It wasn't meant seriously (mostly)--he'd been through this once with Sam and was going to ask the woman out on a date sometime, really, he was, and he just wanted to see what Daniel's answer would be, anyway. "Lieutenant Rush. She's a nurse in the infirmary."
"Oh," Daniel said. He frowned. "Does she have light brown hair?"
Jonas rolled his eyes. "Yeah, like fifty percent of the people on this base."
"I think it's less than that."
"That's not the point. Do you think you could put in a good word for me?"
"A good word?" Daniel repeated, a confused look settling onto his features.
"You know," Jonas said.
Clearing his throat, Daniel looked back down at his desk. "The nurses don't like me any more than they like you."
"But all the medical people think you're fascinating," Jonas said, wincing when he heard himself. "I think they want to study your brain," he added.
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "They actually have your precognitive brain tumor in some lab."
Jonas sat up. That was news to him. "Really," he said. "Where is it?"
"No, Jonas, you can't have it," Daniel said.
Grinning, Jonas said, "Fine. Still. Do you think you could, uh, find out if she'd be receptive?"
"You realize I'm probably the least qualified person on this base for that task?" Daniel pointed out. He'd gone back to reading the file on his desk, scratching his head and very firmly not looking up, until Jonas realized--
"Are you blushing?" Jonas said incredulously. Daniel was startled into straightening. Jonas laughed. "You're blushing! I made Daniel Jackson blush!"
"Shut up," Daniel mumbled. For the first time in...well, a few weeks, at least, he looked his age rather than like one of the hardened veterans around here. "Jonas, you're ridiculous."
"I'm ridiculous? Let me introduce you to your life's story, Mr. Kettle."
"Kettle?" Daniel echoed.
"You know," Jonas said. "There's an Earth expression about the kettle calling the teapot black. I think that's what it was. Or maybe it was a frying pan...anyway, it's about hypocrisy."
Daniel frowned. "I haven't heard that one," he said. "Teal'c told me one about a short and stout teapot, though. Janet's daughter taught it to him."
"Was it about hypocrisy?"
"Actually, I think it was about boiling water."
"Why--" Jonas started.
"I have no idea," Daniel said, though Jonas was gratified to see that he was actually smiling a little bit this time.
"Well, you, me, and Teal'c...we aliens've gotta stick together in the face of Tau'ri madness."
"You're not talking about an alien conspiracy, are you?" Daniel said.
Jonas laughed aloud, throwing up his hands. "What, is that some kind of inside joke? That's exactly what Teal'c told me the first time I said that to him."
"Well, we aliens have done some rather controversial things here," Daniel said. "Has Sam told you about General Bauer and the naquadah enhanced--"
"Nuclear weapon, yeah," Jonas said. Despite feeling recently like he should prove himself able and professional--as the newest, as well as the one being allowed to stay even despite Daniel Jackson's return--he found himself leaning forward, hoping just a little bit for the kind of reminiscing story that he sometimes heard from more experienced personnel. "It's a good thing you guys tried to slow it down, even if it didn't help. I should know first-hand what happens when people don't question authority."
"I guess you would," Daniel said thoughtfully. "It's a fine line, though--a dangerous one. I don't think I fully realized that at the time."
"Is that, uh...why you don't want to keep looking for the knowledge of the Ascended Ancients?" Jonas asked carefully. "Dangerously fine lines?"
Daniel drew his eyebrows down low over narrowed eyes. "There's no telling whether there's anything to remember, anyway, or how much would be useful. And yes, I don't know if it would be safe."
And since everyone from Sam to Colonel O'Neill to Teal'c to General Hammond accepted that as 'good enough,' and since Jonas knew there would always be something he was missing with regard to Daniel, he didn't push it any further. Besides, for all they knew, if they kept trying the memory device, Daniel's brains might turn into energy and dribble out of his head or something. "Okay," Jonas said, "but...it doesn't bother you, not knowing...you know...that much?"
"It doesn't matter how I feel about it."
"It matters to you," Jonas said. When Daniel didn't answer, he pointed out, "I am allowed to be interested in your wellbeing. I know I'm the new guy here and you're Daniel Jackson, but you also just said the team's what we can always count on."
"I don't need you worrying about me," Daniel said.
"Well, tough," Jonas answered, for lack of anything more pithy to say. "I'm not going away. No one understands what you went through, but no one understands Kelowna, either, and they still try to make me talk or...or..."
"Yeah," Daniel said.
"You should have fun more often," Jonas decided. "You're kind of depressing."
To his surprise, Daniel laughed, then stopped, looking equally surprised. Apparently, that had been the right thing to say, because Daniel set his feet--already without boots--on top of his desk and wiggled his toes. "No promises," he said, and this time, it was a joke.
"What was it like in the beginning?" he asked, trying not to sound too eager and knowing he was probably failing. "When the SGC was just starting?"
"It was...frustrating," Daniel said, leaning back in his chair. "Different from how it is now--we were focused on different things. What was it like joining SG-1 when I was dead?"
"Weird," Jonas said emphatically. He thought about it, then added, "And really cool. No offense--it wasn't personal." Daniel grinned. Jonas decided that he'd try to make that a more common sight--being the newest guy on the team didn't mean he couldn't look out for his teammates, too.
"I never welcomed you onto the team," Daniel said abruptly. "I wasn't sure it was appropriate, really, and you don't need my blessing, but--"
"Welcome back," Jonas said before he could finish. "I'm looking forward to working with you."
Daniel picked up his mug of coffee and gave him a mock salute. "So am I. Now, either finish your paperwork, or give it to me and go to bed. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."